Urgent Action needed to save Migrants in the Mediterranean, says Bennett

15 April 2015

* Bennett says UK Government should 'immediately pledge funding' for charities saving migrants' lives

* Green Party demand comes after UK Government cut funding for rescue operation

The leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, has called for immediate action to prevent further tragedies in the Mediterranean.

Ms Bennett's response comes after the charity Doctors Without Borders accused Europe of "turning its back" on people fleeing humanitarian disasters. (1)

The charity, who claim that more than 3,400 people lost their lives trying to reach Europe last year, has launched a search and rescue scheme after the EU's operation was found lacking.

Last year it was revealed that the UK Government had cut support for rescue operations in the Mediterranean. British policy was outlined out in a House of Lords written answer by the Foreign Office minister, Lady Anelay, last year: "We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean," she said, adding that the Government believed there was "an unintended 'pull factor', encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths". (2)

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, said:

"Britain should immediately pledge funding to help with the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean. We cannot simply stand by while hundreds of people drown in our continent's seas. The charities saving people's lives in the Mediterranean must be properly resourced, and Britain must help with this.

"In the longer term we must push the EU into rebuilding an effective scheme to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean – we shouldn't have to rely on the heroic work of charities to undertake this basic humanitarian task.

"It's easy to forget that, behind all of the hard talk on migrants, are people who are desperately fleeing wars, hunger and disease. The next UK Government must accept more refugees from war-torn regions and invest in international policies that build peace and stability across the globe.

"Only the Green Party is standing up to the vicious rhetoric on immigration – and pledging to spend 1% of GDP on international development."

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London and Green Party Immigration Spokesperson, said:

"With 8 000 desperate people being picked up in the Mediterranean in under a week, it is clear that we have a humanitarian problem. People will always try and escape miserable conditions, political and civil unrest, environmental disaster, and persecution. For them to drown trying to reach European shores and safety only indicates their desperation. This is why we need greater search and rescue at sea to be able to prevent catastrophe. Riskier and ever more treacherous sea routes are attempted because land borders are increasingly restrictive. If safe access routes existed, we would have one way of avoiding this."

Doctors Without Borders statement (from their website):

Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF's (Doctors Without Borders) general director, said:

"The decision to close doors and build fences means that men, women and children are forced to risk their lives and take a desperate journey across the sea. Ignoring this situation will not make it go away.

"Europe has both the resources and the responsibility to prevent more deaths on its doorstep and must act in order to do so."

ENDS

1) http://www.msf.org.uk/article/migrants-msf-and-moas-to-launch-mediterranean-search-rescue-and-medical-aid-operation

2) http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/27/uk-mediterranean-migrant-rescue-plan






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