AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
EU must act swiftly to avert North Africa refugee tragedy
(Brussels, 23 June 2011) As European Union leaders prepare to discuss their response to the refugee and migrant crisis in North Africa tomorrow, Amnesty International has urged EU governments to welcome more of those fleeing the conflict in Libya. Many attempt the dangerous crossing to Europe, and more than 1,800 are reported to have died at sea. Most languish in harsh desert transit camps, prey to the scorching sun, sandstorms and scorpions.
“This tragedy is unfolding on the EU’s doorstep but its response has been shameful”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “EU governments praised the ‘Arab Spring’, but don’t want to help relatively few people come to Europe. The UN High Commission for Refugees’ appeal has so far led to EU countries offering to resettle a mere 900 people.”
In a letter to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, Amnesty International has inter alia pressed the EU and its national governments to do more to prevent refugees and migrants from dying at sea, by increasing air surveillance and search and rescue.
Anneliese Baldaccini, an Amnesty International migration specialist who visited Tunisian camps earlier this week, said: “People are desperate to be taken away from the camps where conditions are deteriorating as summer arrives. Unless EU countries act soon, many people have said they will risk the perillous Mediterranean crossing.”
Many of those fleeing Libya are refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and the Ivory Coast who were caught in Libya when the conflict broke out. For many the only solution is to settle in another country where they can begin to rebuild their lives and find long-term safety. UNHCR, has appealed to wealthier countries to resettle large numbers of refugees from desert camps.
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