PACE President on World Refugee Day: too many deaths at sea

Strasbourg, 17.06.2011 - On the eve of World Refugee Day (20 June), Mevlüt Çavusoglu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), delivered the following message:

“This World Refugee Day, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which defines who is a refugee, what rights they have, and how states must treat them. In times of economic hardship and political turmoil, this Convention stands as an enduring symbol of our humanity and our willingness to act together to help persons fleeing conflict and persecution.

In Europe, while we have no major conflicts, it is in the nature of asylum that conflict elsewhere affects us too, making a call on our humanity. As an English poet once said, ‘no man is an island... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind’. And in 2011, tragically, there have been many deaths, as desperate people have sought refuge on European islands and shores.

States have a clear moral and legal obligation to save persons in distress at sea and no vessel can ignore an appeal for rescue. Since the beginning of the year, yet again, too many incidents have cost too many lives. Some of those tragedies could probably have been avoided. This is why the Parliamentary Assembly is now taking up the issue.

In February I urged Europe to share responsibility for the people fleeing North Africa, underlining that all of Europe was concerned, and we will be debating this next week during our session. Indeed, following arrivals in Italy and Malta, it is now the turn of Turkey to take the brunt by receiving thousands of people fleeing Syria. European solidarity is needed now more than ever.”