Europe: save lives now! No more deaths in the Mediterranean

by Oscar Spooner | @JesuitRefugee | Jesuit Refugee Service International
Tuesday, 21 April 2015 12:17 GMT

The priority has to be to save lives: that means a full search and rescue mission. This photo shows the Italian navy rescuing migrants at sea in June 2014 (UNHCR/Italian Navy/M.Sestini).

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Brussels, Rome, 21 April 2015 – As the death toll in the Mediterranean reaches record proportions, Europe's first priority must be to implement a full-scale search and rescue operation. Saving human life must come first. Europe should follow the example of Italy. Now is the time for extraordinary action.

JRS calls on the extraordinary European Council meeting on Thursday 23 April to respond to this ongoing tragedy with a concrete action plan prioritising human dignity and justice.

"Now is a moment for political courage. We urge European leaders to set aside their differences, avoiding the blame game, and to work together constructively to find solutions to this crisis," said Jean-Marie Carrière SJ, JRS Europe Director.

The Jesuit Refugee Service urges EU leaders to:

  • substantially increase use of resettlement for refugees unable to find protection in the region; 
  • family reunification for refugees already in the EU; and 
  • the temporary lifting of visa requirements or at the very least the introduction of visas on humanitarian grounds. 

"The priority has to be to save lives: that means a large scale search and rescue mission, and stopping those who force migrants onto unseaworthy boats. At the same time, there must also be safe and legal ways to find international protection in Europe."

"All 28 EU member states have a responsibility to work together to save lives and to protect human life and dignity. Europe must prove that as well as talk, it can also really act to defend human rights."

For more details on the policy proposal by the Jesuit Refugee Service, see Safe and legal paths to protection in the EU.

For further information:
James Stapleton
International Communications Coordinator
Jesuit Refugee Service
Tel: +39 06 69868 605; +39 346 234 3841

Oscar Spooner
Communications Officer
Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
Tel: +32 2 250 3225

Note to editors:
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) programmes are found in nearly 50 countries, providing assistance to: refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities, and to those held in detention centres. The main areas of work are in the field of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services.

At the end of 2013, JRS employed approximately 1,400 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of nearly 950,000 refugees and IDPs, more than half of whom are women. Services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.