Scrap plans to criminalise refugee rescue operations
In November 2015, I was in Lesbos to volunteer and help document the refugee crisis. While there, I witnessed six incidents of boats in distress in a single week, even as arrivals had been limited by bad weather. All of the people on these boats were rescued by volunteers on the island.
The people arriving were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. There were families with small children, disabled people, and elderly people. They were desperate. Their gratitude towards the volunteers who helped them survive was immeasurable.
The European Union is now drawing up plans to criminalise charities, volunteers or holidaymakers who help migrants arriving on Greek islands.
In January alone, 224 refugees drowned in the Aegean. Many of them were children and babies. Some of the drownings were a direct result of volunteers fearing prosecution for people smuggling.
The EU has done little to nothing to save those drowning at sea in 2015. In 2016, without the efforts of locals, charities and volunteers, deaths in the Mediterranean will be countless.
The EU must immediately:
- Scrap plans to criminalise rescue operations by charities and volunteers
- Immediately restore rescue operations in the Mediterranean
- Ensure people fleeing war can apply for asylum in Europe in safe countries such as Turkey and Lebanon.
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