Critics say that the cancellation last year of an Italian-run sea rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, and the launch in November of Triton, a much smaller border surveillance operation by the EU, created the conditions for the higher death toll. They point to the figure of 900 dead so far this year, far greater than in the same period in 2014, as proof that the end of Mare Nostrum failed to deter migrants while leaving far fewer safeguards in place to rescue victims of frequent shipwrecks.
“It is time to bring back the search-and-rescue capacity of the Mare Nostrum operation, this time as a collective European effort,” said Jan Egeland, a former UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, and now secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “The Mediterranean is now the world’s most dangerous border between countries at peace. European nations have completely run out of excuses. They have to act now in order to prevent even bigger tragedies than those we have already witnessed.”
Michael Diedring, the secretary general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said: “Our calls for EU search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean have fallen on deaf ears. Apart from the outstanding efforts of the Italian navy, the EU continues to fail to act.”
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