April 19, 2015

European Commission issues statement on Mediterranean crisis

EU will try to work with third countries to prevent people from taking ‘these desperate trips’

Up to 700 immigrants may have drowned when a fishing boat capsized in the Mediterranean near Libya. So far this year, some 1,500 people have died attempting to reach Europe from Africa, according to news agency reports.

The number of fatalities from today’s incident is the highest on record for a single boat, but just last week an estimated 400 are thought to have died when their boat capsized.

In its statement, the European Commission says that it intends to adopt a new immigration policy to prevent further loss of life and a new approach to managing immigration. Plans will involve working with third countries to “address the situation at its roots” by stopping people from trying to leave Africa by boat.

The full text of the statement follows:

European Commission Statement on developments in the Mediterranean

Brussels, 19 April 2015

The European Commission is deeply chagrined by the tragic developments in the Mediterranean today, but also over the past days and weeks. The reality is stark and our actions must therefore be bold. These are human lives at stake, and the European Union as a whole has a moral and humanitarian obligation to act.

The European Commission is currently consulting with Member States, European agencies and international organisations in order to prepare a new European Migration Strategy, which will be adopted by the Commission in mid-May. What we need is immediate actions to prevent further loss of life as well as a comprehensive approach to managing migration better in all its aspects.

The only way to truly change the reality is to address the situation at its roots. For as long as there is war and hardship in our neighbourhood near and far, people will continue to seek a safe haven on European shores. And as long as countries of origin and transit do not take action to prevent these desperate trips, people will continue to put their lives at risk. That is why a large part of the approach we are working on is going to be about working with third countries. A joint meeting of the foreign and interior ministers will be organised to this end. This is a joint responsibility of all 28 EU Member States and the EU institutions and requires a joint European response.

President Juncker has charged First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Dimitris Avramopoulos, his Migration Commissioner, to work very closely together on all these aspects in preparation of the new European Migration Agenda and in the swift and effective implementation of all EU instruments which already exist at this stage.

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