More must be done for migrants, says JRS

The Jesuit Refugee Service has added its voice to criticism of European states which are failing to protect migrants at risk on the Mediterranean. Last week, Amnesty International called on EU member states - especially France, Germany and the UK - to take action on EU migration, saying that more vigorous search and rescue systems were needed. Its call followed the deaths of up to 300 migrants in the Mediterranean last week and news that more than 2,000 migrants from Libya had been rescued by Italian coastguards on Sunday.

“Italy demonstrated that it is possible to save lives,” said JRS Europe director, Fr Jean-Marie Carrière SJ. “Imagine what could be achieved if all 28 EU member states really worked together for refugees. We must open safe and legal channels for protection seekers as well as boost search and rescue capacity.”

Border control

JRS is one of several refugee agencies which have criticised the closure of the Italian search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum. This had provided a safe passage of around 150,000 so-called ‘irregular’ migrants, but it was replaced by an operation run by European Union border control agency, Frontex, which they say is not fit for purpose. “We need more resources for a proper search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, which has the mandate of search and rescue and saving lives,” said a spokesperson for the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, a pan-European alliance of 85 non-governmental organisations.

A spokesperson for Frontex agreed that while the latest tragedy was “a very dramatic situation”, their responsibility was principally border control. “I cannot talk about search and rescue, because this is not our mandate,” she said. “Search and rescue is the responsibility of individual countries.”

Jesuit Refugee Service has expressed its frustration at the recent tragedy. “These are European borders," said Fr Carrière, "and all member states should help face the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean with all possible means.”

Photo: The Italian coastguard surveys migrants fleeing from Libya