Open letter to David Cameron: Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results

In this open letter, a coalition of 19 charities calls on the UK to ensure that a fully resourced search-and-rescue mission is re-established

Independent Voices
Wednesday 22 April 2015 08:40
Some 31,000 have made the journey in the first three months of this year with 1,500 deaths; the equation of 1.5 to five per cent of crossings resulting in death seems to be a bet worth taking
Some 31,000 have made the journey in the first three months of this year with 1,500 deaths; the equation of 1.5 to five per cent of crossings resulting in death seems to be a bet worth taking

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.

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.

Yours sincerely,

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

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