Impossible for refugees to reach Europe safely, EU says

Impossible for refugees to reach Europe safely, EU says

BRUSSELS – Anadolu Agency
Impossible for refugees to reach Europe safely, EU says

In this file picture coffin of victims are seen in an hangar of Lampedusa airport on October 5, 2013 after a boat with migrants sank killing 360 people. AFP Photo

It remains “virtually impossible” for migrants to reach Europe in a “legal and safe way,” the EU Home Affairs Commissioner said days after Amnesty International criticized the bloc for its response to people fleeing their countries.

Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement on Oct. 2 that there was no solidarity between EU-member states when it came to accepting refugees.

“While some EU members are taking responsibility, providing shelter for thousands of refugees, several EU countries are accepting almost no one. In some countries, the number of yearly refugees barely exceeds a few handfuls.”

Amnesty International’s report on Sept. 30 criticized the EU for its response to people fleeing war, persecution and poverty in their home countries and called for more safe and legal routes to Europe for refugees fleeing conflict, saying more than 2,500 people heading from North Africa had drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the start of the year.

‘Misery and despair’

Malmstrom’s comments also came on the eve of the Lampedusa shipwreck tragedy in which 360 migrants, including children, died on Oct. 3, 2013 when their vessel, traveling from Libya to Italy, sunk off the coast of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea.

“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. These merchants of death have no fear or pity, risking the lives of children, women and men by putting them at sea on what can only be described as wrecks,” she added.

Malmstrom said the EU had agreed on a Common European Asylum System, setting up laws to make sure asylum seekers were treated fairly and humanely.

The U.N. refugee body, the UNHCR, urged the EU to commit more resources to sea rescues and to step up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages.

“If Europe fails in these efforts, many more lives will continue to be lost, and incidents such as the disaster off of Lampedusa a year ago this week will become more common,” the body said in a statement.

Italian lawmaker Mario Marazziti said a potential way of easing the numbers of people traveling by sea to go to Europe would be to allow refugees to make asylum applications in transit countries, rather than having to get to Europe first.

“If the requests could be registered with European consultants based in countries like Libya, then at least we could organize safe sea crossings in ferries, which would cost a lot less.”