Dear Prime Minister,
We are devastated by the crisis happening in the Mediterranean. Every day we’re witnessing more and more men, women and children losing their lives on Europe’s doorstep.
Although we’re deeply saddened by recent events, we’re not surprised. While wars raging overseas are driving more people to flee their homes than at any other time since the Second World War, Europe has been building its walls ever higher.
The gloomy backdrop to the horrific human tragedy occurring in the Mediterranean is that there is a lack of safe and legal ways for refugees to access protection in Europe. Britain offers no ‘asylum visa’.
As a matter of urgency, the UK and others must immediately restart the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean and ensure it has the money it needs to make a difference. We know that it saves lives; Italy’s Mare Nostrum saved over 150,000 people last year.
In the medium term, the UK must resettle many more refugees from conflict zones around the world, bringing them directly and safely to our shores. We must also make it easier for refugees to reunite with their relatives. In the long term, greater efforts must be made to tackle the reasons why people flee in the first place.
Syrians are just one group having their escape routes closed off by European immigration policies. For a Syrian family trying to find protection in the UK there is virtually no safe and legal way of getting here.
In pictures: Migrant boat disaster
In pictures: Migrant boat disaster
1/10 Migrant boat disaster
Rescuers help children to disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy
2/10 Migrant boat disaster
A child is carried by a rescue worker as he arrives with migrants on the boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo
3/10 Migrant boat disaster
A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy
4/10 Migrant boat disaster
A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at sea
5/10 Migrant boat disaster
Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
6/10 Migrant boat disaster
Armed Forces of Malta personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti as surviving migrants watch in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
7/10 Migrant boat disaster
Rescued migrants talk to a member of the Malta Order after a fishing boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast, is brought ashore along with 23 others retreived by the Italian Coast Guard vessel Bruno Gregoretti at Boiler Wharf, Senglea in Malta
8/10 Migrant boat disaster
Bodies of dead immigrants lie on the deck of the Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
9/10 Migrant boat disaster
Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off their ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
10/10 Migrant boat disaster
Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing stand on the deck of their ship 'Bruno Gregoretti', carrying dead immigrants on board, as it arrives in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand, Harbour
There is no easy answer to this crisis, but the solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown. Until safer ways to seek refuge are found, more people will be forced into the hands of smugglers and onto unseaworthy boats in their search for a safe haven. At the moment, European immigration policies leave many with no other choice.
Building the walls of fortress Europe has had disgracefully deadly results. It’s time for a new approach, which prioritises saving lives and opening up alternative routes to safety. As we’ve seen, it’s a matter of life and death.
Maurice Wren, British Refugee Council Chief Executive
Jan Shaw, Refugee Programme Director, Amnesty International UK
Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
Tiffy Allen, Chief Executive, City of Sanctuary
Professor Bridget Anderson, Director of Research, Centre On Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford
Zrinka Bralo, Executive Director, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum
Don Flynn, Director of Migrants Rights Network
Saira Grant, Legal & Policy Director, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Stephen Hale, Refugee Action, Chief Executive
Almir Koldzic, Counterpoints Arts, Co-Director
Nick Lowles, Chief Executive, HOPE not hate
Susan Munroe, Chief Executive, Freedom From Torture
Wayne Myslik, Chief Executive, Asylum Aid
Eiri Ohtani, Coordinator, The Detention Forum
Nazek Ramadan, Director, Migrant Voice
Dr Trevor Trueman, Oromo Relief Group
John Wilkes, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council
Emma Williams, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees and Regional Asylum Activism
Fr. Peter Balleis SJ, International Director, Jesuit Refugee Service