Mediterranean tragedy is further evidence of need for safe and legal routes for refugees

Last updated February 16, 2015Press release

More than 2,600 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean this weekend, stressing the urgent need for the UK government to reconsider their shameful refusal to support attempts to rescue people attempting to seek safety in Europe. Last week, tragically a further 300 people died attempting the crossing.

Reports that the traffickers were armed with Kalashnikovs, raises major concerns about the safety of people who are in desperate need of protection. Many of these people have been forced to flee their homes after surviving appalling injustices and abuse. It is critical the UK government provides safe and legal channels for refugees to be resettled, rather than turning their backs to this tragedy.

In October 2014, the UK government decided to stop funding search and rescue operations, stating that rescuing migrants only encourages more to attempt the dangerous sea crossing.

Last November Mare Nostrum, the Italian Navy’s search and rescue operation, was replaced by a reduced pan-European programme called Triton, which only patrols within 30 miles of the Italian coast and does not proactively look for vessels in distress.

Refugee Action’s Acting Chief Executive Yemane Tsegai said:

“Refusing to support search and rescue efforts has resulted in the tragic death of at least 300 men, women and children last week and the suffering of many more. The decision to turn our backs on people dying at sea is shameful. Claims that rescue operations encourage people to chance an incredibly dangerous sea crossing is nonsensical. When you are fleeing conflict and torture, whether you will be rescued from a flimsy boat is not part of the equation.

Every day at Refugee Action we help people who’ve survived some of the world’s worst regimes and have come to the UK in search of safety. The UK government regularly says it has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees. In order to up hold this, it urgently needs find ways to offer more safe and legal channels to the UK for people in search of protection.”