At least 25 confirmed dead as EU calls for ‘collective courage’ to tackle migration

‘It’s easy to cry in front of your TV-set when witnessing these tragedies. It is harder to stand up and take responsibility’

A photo released by the Italian navy showed a baby among those rescued
A photo released by the Italian navy showed a baby among those rescued

The European Commission, by midday today, confirmed that at least 25 lives were lost in the latest migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea. The numbers are not final as rescue operations are still underway to recover any other bodies.

Reports says that more than 200 migrants are feared dead.

400 people were rescued after the rickety and packed fishing boat ran into rough weather yesterday some 22 nautical miles north of Zuwarah, Libya.

The Italian Coast Guard said that a baby, few months old, was among therescued.

Unconfirmed reports point towards more migrant departures from Libya this morning, with some 1,000 irregular migrants believed to be crossing the Mediterranean Sea in search of a life in Europe.

The death toll for 2015 is already high, with over 2,000 migrants confirmed as having died during the crossing. The deaths confirm the Mediterranean to be the deadliest route for migrants.

The migrants’ rescue saw the Italians, the Maltese, the Irish, Frontex, Médecins Sans Frontières and Migrant Offshore Aid Station coming together to save lives. The European Union faces criticism of not doing enough to save lives, including the member states refusal to agree to the mandatory burden sharing of migrants. 

‘We need collective courage’ - EU

This morning, Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, High Representative Federica Mogherini and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos issued a statement expressing its sadness over the death of the migrants.

“Though nearly 400 lives could be saved, at least 25 lives were lost in this latest tragedy. Just one life lost is one too many,” they said.

The EU reminded that it had launched a European Agenda on Migration setting out a European response, combining internal and external policies, making best use of EU agencies and tools, and involving all actors: Member States, EU institutions, International Organisations, civil society, local authorities and third countries.

“Migration is not a popular or pretty topic. It is easy to cry in front of your TV-set when witnessing these tragedies. It is harder to stand up and take responsibility. What we need now is the collective courage to follow through with concrete action on words that will otherwise ring empty,” they said.

The EU said it had increased its presence at sea – through the naval operations Triton, Poseidon and EUNAVFOR MED – and it was seeking to cooperate with countries of origin and transit. To this end, a summit will be held in Malta in November with key African countries. The EU has also pledged to clamp down on smuggling networks, making returns more effective and showing solidarity with frontline countries, we need to tackle this challenge from all angles.

A UN resolution on the EU’s plan to target human smugglers is still pending as the EU requires a UN mandate to be able to intervene in Libyan territorial waters.

Commissioner Avramopoulos replies to MEP Mizzi

Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has also issued a statement pointing out that a question she tabled on migration was replied to yesterday, on the same day that the tragedy happened.

In her question to Avramopolous, Mizzi said: “To date, no real action has been taken to solve the problem of refugees losing their lives while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. We cannot face any more tragedies like this, and should act now. Accordingly, I would like to ask the Commission what real action the EU will take to establish a solidarity mechanism for the fair distribution of migrant arrivals.”

"The Commission answer came on the same day, when another major rescue operation took place 15 miles off Libyan coast after a boat carrying 700 migrants capsized. The rescue operation saved many lives, but sadly and tragically many deaths have been confirmed," Mizzi said in her press statement.

In his reply, Avramopoulos referred the Labour MEP to the European Agenda on Migration.

"Very often, when migration is discussed, people are referred to in terms of numbers and statistics and the complexities associated with the issue overshadow the fact that we are dealing with human lives,” Mizzi said. “The problem of irregular migration is first and foremost a human tragedy. I am therefore asking the European Commission to indicate what kind of concrete urgent actions it is willing to provide, firstly to stop these tragedies from happening again and secondly to assist those countries bordering the European Union who want to find a dignified solution to this problem.”

The Labour MEP added that the actions taken by the Commission were still unsustainable and ineffective to the current needs.

“As a rapporteur to the PETI Opinion on migration I will continue to insist that without the right combination of EU tools and cooperation between the Member States, Europe will continue to firefight with little hope, no solutions and more deaths.”