Current data on shipwrecks of asylum seekers attempting to reach Europe’s coasts has been the most underestimated in recent years. Without the presence of boats from the countries themselves and with increasing obstacles to the work of non-governmental organizations, the 2,600 deaths from June 2019 to December must “underrepresent the real number of deaths that are more likely to be off-radar. “Reads the report” A troubling plea for human rights. The growing gap in the protection of migrants in the Mediterranean, ”the Council of Europe published this Tuesday.
“For years the European countries have been running downhill to keep the people who need our protection out of our borders with catastrophic consequences,” writes Dunja Mijatovic, Commissioner for Human Rights of the international organization, in the introduction.
The official response to refugees and migrants, stemming from the “unwillingness of European states” to develop protective measures, only contributed to “greater human suffering” and “is one of the most obvious examples of how bad migration practices affect legislation to undermine human rights and cost the lives of thousands of people, ”denounces Mijatovic.
Since the vast majority of shipwrecks take place on the Mediterranean route, the relative risk of drowning “remains high and has slowly but steadily increased after the end of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the text says. Much of the report focuses on the sea, but does not forget what happens to asylum seekers when they reach European countries, a situation that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The practice of shuttling newcomers from one boat to another and holding them for periods “often beyond what would be required for quarantine reasons” has been broadened, particularly in Malta – the country retained asylum for several months last year Seekers “outside its territorial waters in private boats that were not equipped to accommodate people”. In Italy, on the other hand, there were 1,195 refugees and migrants on ships on November 27th.
In both cases, according to the Council of Europe, there was a lack of “access to adequate health care” and “legal assistance” so that the organization concerned “could use it to prevent people from making progress. Asylum applications “. .
The document takes stock of the implementation of the recommendations published by the Council in 2019 and concluded that “the human rights situation in the region remains deplorable” and “it has actually deteriorated”. Behind this development is the “progressive withdrawal of ships that have been chartered by the States”, the same countries that “curtail the vital work of NGOs, even as they fill the gaps left by their own divestments”. In practice, “NGOs’ search and rescue activities have continued to be hampered by administrative or criminal proceedings or simply by the disembarkation ban,” the report said.
At the same time, there have been reports over the past year and a half of situations where “national coastal authorities are slow to respond to requests for assistance or limit themselves to giving instructions to merchant vessels with boats in caution”. There are also increasing allegations, “particularly with regard to Malta”, of a lack of response “to vulnerable refugees and migrants or to the NGOs who are raising the alarm”.
For the Council of Europe, these behaviors are aimed at increasing the likelihood that people at sea will be intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and detained in that country, despite the “grave human rights violations” they face there.
Dunja Mijatovic reminds that the member countries of the organization are all signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights and calls for measures to save the lives of those who try to cross the Mediterranean: “It’s a matter of life or death – and the credibility of the commitment of the people European countries for the defense of human rights. “