Migreurop press release

Deadly grip in the Mediterranean Sea

Hundreds of boat people killed by the international coalition’s inaction

Since January 2011, over 1,000 migrants have drowned while attempting to reach the fortified coasts of the southern shores of the European Union.

Since January 2011, over 1,000 migrants have drowned while attempting to reach the fortified coasts of the southern shores of the European Union. These figures must be added to the 15,000 victims of the « war against migrants » which reaches these days new peaks of inhumanity. According to informations, a boat carrying over 600 people is lost in the high seas off the Libyan coast [1], amidst general indifference.

In its issue of May 8, 2011, the British newspaper The Guardian reports that, at the beginning of April, around 60 boat people died of starvation and thirst after having been adrift for days. Threatened by the patrols entrusted with preventing their arrival on the italian and maltese coasts, they were also under the watch of the vessels of the international coalition deployed in Libya.

An impartial inquiry must quickly establish the responsibilities of the combination of actors which have failed in their duty to assist the vessels and people in distress, violating the most basic rules of international maritime law.

Beyond these events, which are symptomatic of the contradictions of a coalition that is a guarantor of the « responsibility to protect » defended by the international community, this matter that questions the European immigration and border control policy as a whole.

Since the turn of the century, countries in Northern Africa have been playing a role as the EU border guards by pursuing and detaining people who wish to enact their right to emigrate (art. 13 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights). The subcontracting of migration controls to dictatorial regimes is at the core of the EU neighbourhood policy. Faced by the historic events that are stirring the Arab world, the reaction of the European countries has been to exert pressure on the political forces arising from popular uprisings (the Tunisian provisional government, the Libyan national transition council) in order to have them to fully assume the heritage of repression and denial of freedom of the EU dictators-partners.

To stop a few thousand people who, seizing the opportunity offered by the weakening of the policing apparatuses, sought to reach Europe, Frontex agency deployed its military means (ships, aeroplanes, helicopters...) around the island of Lampedusa and opposite the Tunisian and Libyan coasts. The objective of Operation Hermes is to dissuade people from departing northwards, contravening the 1951 Geneva Convention and the principle of non-refoulement of asylum seekers.

At present, the migrants who set off from North Africa and seek protection in Europe are caught in a deadly grip. On one hand, there is the Libyan regime of colonel Gaddafi which pushes them off aboard sea relics ; on the other hand, ships under the flags of the states in the international coalition refuse to assist these boat people who are in danger.

European states and Frontex agency cannot continue to violate with impunity international conventions on sea rescue and on the protection of refugees. An intervention based on solidarity by the EU in the Mediterranean is possible [2] and must put an end to the European countries’ inhumane attitude towards migrants who have left North Africa. As long as these hostilities will not have ceased, the coalition engaged in the name of the « responsibility to protect » will continue to kill while disregarding the international law that it supposedly embodies.

CONTACT + 33 (0)1 53 27 87 81 contact@migreurop.org