A proposal to increase search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean has been rejected by the European Parliament. The legislation called for member states to increase funding in this area, but was narrowly defeated by 290 votes to 288.
It’s estimated that, so far this year, over 1000 people have drowned making the crossing. In recent years, search and rescue operations have been de-funded and policies towards migrants have hardened. Some governments, including Italy, have also campaigned to stop NGO’s rescuing migrants.
The majority of the votes against the motion came from the largest political group in parliament – the centre-right European People’s Party. This home to many mainstream, pro-EU conservative politicians, including Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Ursula von der Leyen. In addition to this, most members of far-right and Eurosceptic parties voted against the motion, with most liberals, greens, and socialist groups voting for it.
According to the UN, since 2014, around 18,000 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. Most of them were trying to reach Europe. However, a report by Eurostat found that, in 2018, the EU had refused entry to more non-EU citizens than in the previous year, and that the number of people staying illegally had decreased.
It was estimated that 471,000 non-EU citizens were refused entry in 2018, a 7% rise on the year before. Also, 478,000 people were deported and 516,000 orders were given for non-EU citizens to leave the EU. The number of new arrivals had also fallen dramatically since the peak of the migrant crisis in 2015.
On MEP, Juan Fernando López Aguilar said in an interview: “Far too many people are losing their lives in the Mediterranean. This is an urgent situation and we have a system that is in urgent need of reform. We are not getting that same sense of urgency from the commission or member states, nor from the centre-right European People’s Party.”
“Today made it clear that political groups on the right are willing to abandon their legal and moral obligations. They are failing to act responsibly to save lives at sea. Far-right groups often dismiss our approach but it is extremely disappointing that even MEPs on the centre-right do not share any sense of solidarity.”
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