Thursday

7th Jul 2022

Parliament observes minute of silence for drowned refugees from Libya

  • Too late: Lampedusa coast guard ships did not arrive in time to rescue the refugees (Photo: Valentina Pop)

MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (6 April) observed a minute of silence for the up to 250 migrants and asylum seekers feared dead after a boat coming from Libya sank off the Italian coast of Lampedusa.

The boat, carrying around 300 African and Asian migrants and asylum seekers fleeing Libya, capsized during the night of 5-6 April while trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The coast guard was able to save 47 people and three more were rescued by fishermen on Thursday morning, with high winds and rough seas making it hard for helicopters and ships to operate.

According to the International Organisation for Migration who spoke to some of the survivors, the boat was laden beyond capacity and had left the Libyan coast with migrants and asylum seekers from Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Chad and Sudan. Some 40 women and five children were on board. Only two women survived the shipwreck.

Survivors transferred to Lampedusa told IOM aid workers that when the rescuers arrived, the boat was already sinking and they had to swim towards the coast guard ship. Many drowned because they were unable to swim or were dragged down by desperate fellow passengers.

After an influx of over 20,000 migrants from Tunisia in the past two months, the tiny island of Lampedusa - inhabited by 5,000 fishermen and tourism providers - has seen some 2,000 mostly African refugees arrive from Libya in the past ten days.

Observing this trend, MEPs from centre-left groups on Wednesday called on member states and the European Commission to immediately activate a special refugee status for people fleeing the Libyan war.

"The terrible reports of a Libyan refugee boat which capsized at sea near Lampedusa should be clear evidence to EU countries of the immediate and critical nature of the refugee flows in the Mediterranean and it requires urgent EU action," said Socialist MEP Claude Moraes from Luxembourg.

"We therefore welcome the initiative taken today by commissioner Malmstrom to finally call on EU governments to change their policy and implement the temporary protection mechanism to ensure some burden sharing between EU countries in a time of asylum crisis," Moraes added.

His Portuguese colleague Rui Tavares from the leftist GUE-NGL group also saw reason for the special refugee status to be granted and EU asylum policies revised as soon as possible.

Member states have blocked a so-called resettlement programme allowing refugees to be distributed evenly among member states.

"EU refugee policy is a disgrace. We have created a situation where these people must wait in camps within and outside the EU, waiting for a clear answer. The EU knows that it must increase the number of refugees it resettles but is now in a situation where it is playing with lives," he said.

In a separate vote, MEPs narrowly approved a bill calling on member states to enhance minimum procedural safeguards, such as free legal assistance, the right to information, and the right to a personal interview. Vulnerable applicants, such as children, people with disabilities or LGBTI people should be given special attention, the parliament says.

"The EU cannot bear the costs of not having an effective asylum system, even more now in the light of the recent turmoil", said French Socialist Sylvie Guillaume MEP, who drafted the parliament's position.

She noted that the reform of the EU's asylum policies is bogged down in the council of ministers, especially when it comes to revising the so-called Dublin regulation allowing governments to send back asylum seekers to the first EU state of entry - a rule which is temporarily being ignored in the case of Greece, where asylum conditions are seen as too poor.

MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship

Two MEPs have withdrawn their nominations from the MEPs Awards over the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis's participation as a sponsor — currently involved in an alleged bribery scandal in Greece.

EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Interpreters at the European Parliament are fed up with remote interpretation, citing auditory health issues given the poor quality of the online sessions.

EU opens door to Ukraine in 'geopolitical' summit

EU leaders will also discuss eurozone issues with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, as more and more leaders are worried about voters' distress at soaring inflation.

Column

'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Some modest headway in recognising the unrelenting tide of discrimination and violence facing women worldwide was made at last week's largely self-congratulatory and mostly irrelevant G7 talk-fest. But no one mentioned abortion, just days after the Roe vs Wade decision.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us