HRW: Action Needed to Prevent Needless Migrant Deaths in Mediterranean

Posted August 17th, 2012 at 2:05 am (UTC-5)
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A Human Rights Watch report says coordinated action is needed to improve rescue operations in the Mediterranean for boat migrants making the “dangerous crossing” from North Africa to Europe.

HRW says migrants who are in its words “fleeing persecution or seeking a better life” often make the journey in unseaworthy and dangerous boats.

The organization says rescues are hampered by what it calls “poor coordination, disputes over responsibility, disincentives for commercial vessels to conduct rescues, and an emphasis on border enforcement.”

HRW's senior Western Europe researcher, Judith Sunderland, says “saving lives, not deflecting responsibility, needs to be the imperative at sea.”

The European Union is developing a new European External Border Surveillance System which will include rescue at sea as a main objective, but does not include specific guidelines or procedures.

HRW says preventing deaths at sea needs to be “at the heart” of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration.

HRW reports the known death toll of boat migrants this year is 170. Last year's toll was the deadliest on record, at 1,500.