A more comprehensive & humane way of preventing & handling tragedies at sea is desperately needed (Joint NGO Press Statement)

We would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives off the coast of Malta in recent weeks. We also express our solidarity with all those men and women working hard to save lives in the Mediterranean.

With very limited legal and safe ways of entering the European Union and availing themselves of the Common European Asylum System, thousands of refugees are driven to North African shores to embark of life-threatening journeys. We are concerned that European Union and Member State policies of containment and the over-securitization of external borders seem to have contributed to the proliferation of the unscrupulous smuggling networks that exploit the right to seek asylum and the desperate need to remain alive.

The particularly violent circumstances of last week’s tragedies and the increasing number of deaths are testimony to this.

Prevention of these tragedies cannot be postponed any longer. Safe and legal means of accessing protection must be established. For example, the European Union should explore the possibility of establishing humanitarian visas. It should also revisit its limitation on the right to family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, thereby potentially saving thousands of lives. European Union Member States should further increase their annual refugee resettlement quota.

We also believe these human disasters should be better handled, particularly in relation to the treatment of corpses and their belongings. Together with civil society organisations, the European Union should immediately explore the possibility of setting up of a co-ordinated system for the identification of bodies and archiving of personal belongings in order to bring some dignity to those who lost their lives, and some closure for their loved one.

Statement by: aditus foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equality, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta.

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