The EU has been accused of “radio silence” on the issue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat, leaving Italy to cope with the crisis alone. Italy has scooped more than 100,000 from often overcrowded and unsuitable vessels under operation Mare Nostrum, at a cost of millions of euros a month.
A report by the Asylum Information Database released yesterday, slams the response by the EU both in general, and with specific reference to the abandonment of Italy to cope with the problem, The Local has reported.
“Europe is still sitting on the fence as far as the immediate humanitarian needs at sea are concerned as it is Italy that has to deal with the rescue and disembarkation of migrants, asylum seeker and refugees on sea on a daily basis, with only limited financial support of the EU”, the introduction to the report reads.
“Moreover, the radio-silence in the rest of Europe as regards the Italian government’s calls for more solidarity from other EU Member States in dealing with the increased sea arrivals is an indication of both the political sensitivity of the issue and the reluctance of most EU Member States to acknowledge the arrival of asylum seekers at the Southern shores of the EU as a common challenge,” the report continues.
Christopher Hein, director of the Italian Council for Refugees (Cir), told The Local that the current debate “is overshadowed by national egoism rather than a [European] Union solution.”
“In front of such a humanitarian drama, at the edge of the EU, all need to do more,” Hein added, in reference to the war in Syria which has created three million refugees. According to the UN refugee agency, 26 percent of boat migrants to Italy last year were from Syria.
Hain also indicated that the current instability in Libya is compounding the problem, as militia groups are people trafficking across the Mediterranean. “As long as the situation in Libya stands as it is, it is certainly necessary to intervene in countries before people arrive there,” he said.
Travel across the Mediterranean is fraught with danger as vessels are often small fishing boats, unsuitable for the long journeys. They are also commonly overcrowded, adding to the risk. In October 2013, over 360 migrants, asylum seekers and refugees lost their lives off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa during the crossing. The deaths drew wide criticism from EU states who at the time vowed to do more.