The organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the European Union (EU) to act immediately on the refugee situation in the Mediterranean Sea. The call follows the latest tragedy that saw at least 700 migrants perish in an attempt to flee from their troubled homelands and reach Europe. This brings the death toll to over 1,000 in the past week. HRW spokesperson Judith Sunderland said: “The EU is standing by with arms crossed while hundreds die off its shores. These deaths might well have been prevented if the EU had launched a genuine search-and-rescue effort.” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi singled out Libya as the key problem and said efforts should focus on refugee boats leaving Libyan ports.
The 28-member EU is under fire from within over its policy to scale down efforts to save lives at sea. Divisions began last year when the EU cut its search-and-rescue budget by two-thirds. Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said: “Europe can do more and Europe must do more. It is a shame and a confession of failure how many countries run away from responsibility.” Maltese PM Joseph Muscat warned: “We will all be judged in the same way that history has judged Europe when it turned a blind eye to the genocide of this century and last century.” Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy said: “This is the umpteenth time we hear of yet another human tragedy in the Mediterranean….Words won’t do any more.”