One year after 366 refugees died off Lampedusa, refugees still have no other choice but to risk their lives in order to seek protection. NGOs across Europe, including ECRE, have criticised Europe’s inaction to prevent further loss of lives at sea and have called on EU States to provide ways for refugees to reach the EU in a legal and safe way.

“Today it is virtually impossible to come to Europe in a legal and safe way. Migrants are forced to put their lives in the hands of traffickers and smugglers who are making huge profits by exploiting their misery and despair”, EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström acknowledged.

Regarding the possible termination of Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation, which has saved more than 140,000 people since October, and the more limited scope of a joint Frontex operation in the area, NGOs warned that if the search and rescue efforts are downsized, the death toll in the Mediterranean will rise. Civil society called for a truly European response to guarantee sustainable and effective search and rescue in the Mediterranean.

Furthermore, organisations called for action to better support refugees and countries at the borders of the EU. UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants François Crépeau said: “There is also an urgent need to allow migrants to circulate within the EU to where they can be reunited with their families, or find a job and start contributing to their new communities. Trying to confine them to the territory of the frontline countries obliges migrants to continue traveling underground, further empowering mafias and unscrupulous employers, and places undue responsibilities on such frontline countries”.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 3 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.