EU reacts as 1,300 drown in 14 days

After 1,300 people drown attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the last two weeks, the EU’s plan includes fingerprinting migrants and bombing their boats.

The foreign and interior ministers of the European Commission have backed a “ten point plan” for tackling the rising number of corpses drifting onto EU beaches. 1,300 people have drowned trying to escape from Africa and the Middle East in the past 14 days, partly because the multi-nation operation that replaced Italy’s Mare Nostrum is so woefully inadequate.

(You might remember that we’re contributing a single solitary person to that endeavour – see “UK refuses to pay share of search and rescue costs“. I’m sure their consultancy skills are really making the difference.)

Those ten points are:

  1. Slightly increase the search and rescue operations in the Med (although no word on where the money is coming from).
  2. “A systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers”.
  3. Various EU group will meet regularly to gather information on smugglers’ “modus operandi” (clue: it’s taking cash from people so desperate to escape their homelands that they’ll pay their life’s savings to cross a sea on a falling-apart hulk).
  4. More people to process asylum applications.
  5. “Member states to ensure fingerprinting of all migrants.”
  6. “Consider options for an emergency relocation mechanism.”
  7. A voluntary pilot project to offer places across the EU to “persons in need of protection” (you can many governments will volunteer for that).
  8. A faster way of punting “irregular migrants” back to whence they came.
  9. More “engagement” with countries surrounding Libya and Niger.
  10. Deploy “immigration liaison officers” to “key third countries” to gather intelligence on migratory flows.

The full press release is here.

You’ll spot that when it comes to bombing boats and treating migrants as criminals the EU has no issues in finding cash. Ask people to fund boats to pull living bodies out of the water, and pockets quickly become much shallower.

There is no simple solution to this. No political quick win. No magic wand to wave. No easy way to stop the bloated bodies of children washing up on the sands of our holiday resorts.

Sadly, we took the easy route when it came to exploiting these countries in our colonial days, and then later on when we drew straight lines on the map to create new nations that suited our needs.

Now is the time for us to step up and do the hard work to help these people, rather than just move the problem out of sight. Because even as you snuggle under the duvet this evening, somewhere nearby a mum and dad are reassuring their terrified kids that some rickety heap of a boat isn’t going to break apart beneath them.

We can afford to give them a decent chance of surviving the night. But I don’t know if we will.

PS: I know that’s an RNLI video, but you get the idea.

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