Public debate on refugee crisis distracts from human smuggling issue says MEP
2015-10-15 15:42:01 -

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes has said there needs to be a larger naval rescue commitment by EU member states.


Hayes made the comments as latest figures show that the number of migrants and asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe by sea so far in 2015 has reached half a million.


“The migrant and refugee issue hasn’t gone away and the focus needs to return to the issue of deaths on sea routes,” he told a forum with Irish NGOs on the migrant and refugee crisis in Europe.


“Almost 3,000 men, women and children who were fleeing persecution have lost their lives this year.”


However, he added, “from January to September, 106,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean. Had these rescue boats not been deployed the number of deaths would have been considerably higher.”


Hayes said public debate about the number of refugees the EU should accept “has distracted from the more fundamental issue of human smuggling, deaths at sea and how refugees are supported once they land in the EU.


“While supporting refugees in camps, and arranging resettlement before they attempt to cross the Mediterranean is important, we cannot ignore the huge number of criminal gangs putting refugees’ lives at risk in flimsy crafts.”


Hayes added: “I’m calling on larger EU member states to commit more ships to Operation Triton in the Mediterranean. The commitment of Ireland’s navy is not being matched, in proportionate terms, by the larger member states. This has to change if we are to stop thousands more dying at sea.”

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