Death on Europe’s Doorstep

MOAS rescue 105 migrants in rubber dinghy Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/MOASThe migrant body count on the Mediterranean far surpasses the toll of terrorism, but the E.U. has abdicated its humanitarian responsibility.

By Alexander H. Maurice.

In 2014, a record 3,419 migrants died off the southern coasts of Europe while trying to cross the Mediterranean from the Middle East and North Africa. This statistic was released by the U.N. agency for refugees last December.

As the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) pointed out, this makes the southern European border the deadliest crossing in the world. In comparison, fewer than 500 people die each year attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico, according to Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs. Worse still, the situation in North Africa has led the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to warn that the body count on the Mediterranean could be even higher in 2015.

These tragic numbers were announced as the Italian navy ended its Mare Nostrum rescue strategy, which was launched in 2013 to reduce the number of migrant deaths following two disasters off its shores in October of that year. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles estimates Mare Nostrum had saved around 150,000 people on the seas during its one-year mandate.
Passing the Responsibility

Mare Nostrum has now been replaced by E.U. border protection agency Frontex’s Operation Triton. Due to dependence on the voluntary contributions of reluctant E.U. members, however, this Triton is down to a third of the operating budget of Mare Nostrum, with resources of just $3 million a month. Triton has fewer and smaller vessels and a mandate to stay within 30 miles of the Italian coast in order to focus on border security rather than reaching farther into the Mediterranean, as Mare Nostrum had done.

Triton may save money, but the cost will be in human lives. At a major conference on migration in Geneva, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned Europe’s response to the tragedies on Europe’s doorstep:

“The lack of concern that we see in many countries for the suffering and exploitation of such desperate people is deeply shocking. Rich countries must not become gated communities, their people averting their eyes from the bloodstains in the driveway.”

Britain has ignored this condemnation, claiming that search and rescue missions only encourage more migrants to attempt the journey. London and has stated that it would …

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