Following the loss of hundreds of lives, industry groups have praised the decision to call an extraordinary session of EU leaders on Thursday to address people smuggling in the Mediterranean.
EU Foreign and Interior Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday agreed a ’10-point-plan’ aimed at addressing the issue. Patrick Verhoeven, secretary general of European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) commented: “The provision of additional funding and resources to Search and Rescue (SAR) is a positive step but more clarity is required to understand the implications of operating within the FRONTEX mandate.
“But the urgent and immediate priority is for EU Member States to increase resources for SAR operations before thousands more people die.”
Verhoeven continued: “The scale of the tragedy at the weekend is unprecedented and European leaders can no longer ignore the catastrophe occurring on the EU’s maritime border.”
As well as the capsizing of a vessel carrying at least 700 over the weekend – many of them said to be locked in the hold as the vessel sank – as well as similar incident the week before, several incidents were also reported yesterday which are expected to push death tolls even further.
Peter Hinchliffe, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) secretary general, described the need for “An EU Mare Nostrum,” referring to Italy’s humanitarian SAR operation which, before being suspended last year, co-ordinated the rescue of around 200,000 people in 2014, 40,000 of them rescued by merchant ships. “Italy, Malta and other Mediterranean nations, and the merchant ships on which they have relied to assist with hundreds of large scale rescue operations, many involving hundreds of people at a time, simply cannot continue to manage the situation without the collective support of all EU Member States, which need to act now without further delay.”
ICS policy director Simon Bennett yesterday described the tragedies to Seatrade as “potentially game changing”, adding that “ICS fully supports the call from the Italian prime minister for an immediate EU summit on the crisis, and we hope that EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg today will make progress on developing solutions.”
Meanwhile IMO secretary general Koji Sekimizu has called for “Safer, managed routes” for migrants, indicating that “the maritime search and rescue system… was not designed to handle the huge flows of migrants that are currently being seen in the Mediterranean.”
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