(Brussels, 21/04/2015) CONCORD, Europe’s leading confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, is appalled by yet another series of needless tragedies in which boats carrying migrants have sunk in the Mediterranean sea. In Saturday’s incident off the Libyan coast an estimated 900 people may have died.

For Bob van Dillen, the chair of CONCORD’s Migration and Development Task Force: “The Fortress Europe approach is killing the European project based on solidarity. We need to defend the dignity of every human being in need. The Triton project that replaced the former Mare Nostrum search and rescue mission has proven ineffective; it’s now time for urgent change.”

The recent death toll in the hundreds casts a dark spotlight not only on the unscrupulous traffickers but also on the current European approach to migration which is too focused on security and border controls, causing desperate people to decide to engage with traffickers at the risk of their life. Unfortunately, this approach seems to be confirmed by the 10 point action plan on migration presented on 20 April by the Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council.

Proposals for a new EU migration policy

Ahead of Thursday’s emergency summit of EU leaders, CONCORD proposes:

  • open immediate legal, safe channels of migration to ensure that people migrate without risking their lives
  • sharing the reception and protection across Europe, including non-EU countries.
  • the EU to take immediate measures to deploy serious rescue operation in the Mediterranean to save lives of the expected upcoming boat flux
  • increasing investment in inclusive development, decent work and social protection in countries of origin so migration is an option and not a necessity.

Triton policy is ineffective

Since its start in November 2014, Triton has saved some 7,000 people. Mare Nostrum saved over 140,000 in 12 months. All in all, over 1500 people have died in the Mediterranean this year, 50 times more than at the same point in 2014.

“We urgently need effective protection of people seeking a better life elsewhere. EU leaders cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” says Marina Sarli, Hellenic NGO platform spokesperson and CONCORD Board Member.


The Mediterranean: from a sea of hope to a sea of nightmares

• In the past twenty years, at least 15,000 people have died trying to reach Europe’s shores from Africa and the Middle East. Many of those who died were refugees and asylum seekers, women and children, human beings fleeing wars, abject chaos and despair.

• The Mediterranean Sea crossing is the world’s most deadly, with 3,500 deaths recorded just last year. For CONCORD so many deaths can be prevented if Europe would continue Italy’s priority to save lives first with real search and rescue. Ultimately it’s a question of giving real political priority to the issue. 

For CONCORD current EU border enforcement approaches neither protect the fundamental human right to life nor respect international and regional treaties that require protection: for those fleeing persecution, serious human rights violations and torture; for those abused by human traffickers or smugglers; and for children. Alongside efforts at political solutions and development that address root causes of this migration, wider resettlement, labor migration and humanitarian channels are needed so that people fleeing for survival do not have to seek help from human traffickers and smugglers, suffer so much, and die.


Notes to editors

1. CONCORD is the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs. It represents NGOs from all 28 EU member states, as well as 18 international networks and 2 associate members.

2. ‘Mare Nostrum’, the search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean, led by the Italian navy ended last November. It was replaced by the patrolling operation ‘Triton’, co-ordinated by the EU Frontex border agency. Mare Nostrum was a €9 million per month operation, Triton is etimated at being worth €3 million per month.

Media contact; CONCORD Communications Coordinator Daniel Puglisi, Daniel.puglisi@concordeurope.org Tel. 32 (0) 2 743 87 77