United Nations condemns EU’s insufficient immigration policies
by Begüm Tunakan
ISTANBULJan 04, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Begüm Tunakan
Jan 04, 2015 12:00 am
After human smugglers left many immigrants bidding for a new life in Europe abandoned in crewless ghost ships, the U.N refugee agency urged European countries to take more responsive action
As the number of desperate people fleeing conflict and war to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean has gradually increased, the United Nations refugee agency underscored the desperate situation of immigrants, while calling on European countries for more effective maritime operations.
The new method by people traffickers of abandoning "ghost ships" full of migrants off European coasts indicates that refugees have been left drifting in the Mediterranean with no single security measure. In response to the human tragedy at sea, Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe Bureau Director, highlighted the need to strengthen the European Union's humanitarian response targeting migrants in dire need of help, while "express[ing] concerns over the ending of the [Mare Nostrum] operation without a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it."
The UNHCR thanks the Italian authorities for their response to these latest incidents, despite the phasing down of the Mare Nostrum operation. We have expressed concerns over the ending of this operation without a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it. This will undoubtedly increase the risk for those trying to find safety in Europe."
"We need urgent European concerted action in the Mediterranean Sea, increasing efforts to rescue people at sea and stepping up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages. Without safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe, we won't be able to reduce the multiple risks and dangers posed by these movements at sea," Cochetel added, stressing the worrying situation of the immigrants attempting to reach Europe by sea.
The new EU policy "Operation Triton" towards refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach Europe imposes strict measures over search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. The new rescue operation has been criticized due to the fact that the main focus of this joint EU mission is only to manage border security control to keep the massive number of migrants away from coming to Europe.
"Operation Triton … cannot be expected to handle the migrant challenge alone. It has two aircrafts and helicopters at its disposal, two open sea patrol vessels and four coastal ones: a fleet appropriate to its mandate, which is to control the EU's borders, not to police 2.5 million square kilometers of the Mediterranean," said the EU border agency, Frontex, in a statement.
The turmoil in the Middle East and the years-long war in Syria has led many people to flee the conflict in an attempt to seek security and shelter in a more prosperous and peaceful country, such as in Europe. Over 165,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean in 2014, as indicated by the United Nations and Amnesty International. More than 3,000 people died at sea while crossing the Mediterranean, according to the 2014 figures.
These numbers have been gradually increasing as hundreds of immigrants hope to reach European shores through Italy. Italy has grappled with a wave of incidents involving rescue operations to save immigrants who risks their lives on a dangerous journey. The Italian authorities launched their third rescue operation for a crewless ghost ship, which had been left drifting with many children, women and elderly immigrants on board, as 360 migrants suffering from hypothermia and hunger were rescued by Italian authorities on Saturday.
"Most of the 232 men, 54 women and 74 children are thought to be Syrians fleeing war in their homeland," as reported by the AFP news agency. The ghost ships have led to a significant threat for the safety for maritime transportation in international waters. The ships abandoned by people smugglers with hundreds of migrants on board advance towards the coast on autopilot.