Boat tragedies off Turkey and Lampedusa: further warnings for Europe

Strasbourg, 07.09.2012 – “The latest sinking incidents – the terrible loss of life off the coast of Turkey yesterday, in which so many children died, and the news that some people are still missing after the incident off Lampedusa in the early hours of this morning – are a warning to Europe of what can happen when humanitarian tragedies are ignored, said Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), who has investigated boat deaths in the Mediterranean for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“In the case of the boat off Turkey, many of those on board are thought to have come from Syria where a humanitarian crisis is in full swing. Asylum seekers from the conflict there are heading not only to neighbouring states but also to the rest of Europe,” she pointed out.

“This is an urgent warning that Europe must give much greater priority to the humanitarian situation evolving in Syria, and find new means to tackle the migration flows between Turkey and Greece – for Turkey’s sake, for Greece’s stake, for Europe’s stake, and for the sake of all those who have lost their lives and who will continue to lose their lives crossing between the two countries.”

“European countries should also be prepared to take their share in the protection of Syrian refugees, as neighbouring countries Jordan and Turkey are facing growing problems in coping with such large numbers.”

“We know that a failure to react adequately to the humanitarian consequences of the Libya conflict caused unnecessary deaths. Let us not repeat those mistakes with the conflict in Syria,” she concluded.

Earlier this year, Senator Strik’s inquiry into a March 2011 incident uncovered a failure to react to distress calls and “a catalogue of failures” which led to the deaths of 63 people fleeing the conflict in Libya by boat.