A coordinated approach involving governments and agencies is needed to address the tragedy of refugees endangering their lives on migrant ships trying to reach Europe, according to the Irish Red Cross.
John Roche, Interim Secretary General. said migrants are desperate to escape persecution and deprivation, following shipwrecks claiming the lives of over 1,200 people in the past fortnight.
Mr Roche said ''The EU needs to support local authorities in boosting maritime search-and-rescue services along the Med as an immediate response. But a greater effort to address the humanitarian crises in the refugees’ home countries is also essential, otherwise desperate people will continue to risk their lives on these coffin ships.
''These migrants feel they have no choice but to risk their lives in the hope they can throw themselves at the mercy of European authorities.
''They are coming from countries in West and North Africa and the Middle East trying to cross the Mediterranean on overcrowded vessels not meant for such long trips. Around 16,500 have tried to make the trip since the start of the year and over 1,500 have died. That’s 30 times the level of this time last year.
''Rescue services in states like Italy, Greece and Malta cannot cope with this surge and other countries on the Mediterranean will also be challenged if migrants continue crossing on known routes that stretch from Portugal across to Eastern Europe.
''The Red Cross movement is working on the ground in the countries of origin and we can see that these migrants are escaping poverty and conflict. In many cases, they are looking for food and shelter or lost family members at refugee camps set up to cope with victims of conflict.
''These camps are already under-resourced and cannot cope with further influxes of despairing people. While this situation pertains, we can expect more desperate people taking enormous risks with their lives to reach European shores.
“A comprehensive approach involving governments and NGOs at home and in the conflict zones and impoverished areas is simply essential.”
John Roche is available for interview, contact: 087 285 4318
Paul Anderson, Communications Executive: 087 7433 275