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“UK must not abdicate responsibility” - Hyslop

External Affairs Secretary highlights “Europe’s lost graveyard in the Mediterranean”.

Further action is needed by the European Union to tackle the issues affecting southern borders, including the number of refugees who continue to drown in the Mediterranean, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said today.

Having first raised the issue after the Lampedusa tragedy and following her recent letter to the UK Minister for Europe, Ms Hyslop will speak about the problem today at a meeting of the UK, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments. She will stress the need for the issue to be treated as a humanitarian matter, rather than an immigration one.

Recently the Italian search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum, which is reported to have saved the lives of 150,000 people, came to an end. A limited joint EU border protection operation was launched, providing patrols within 30 miles of the Italian coast – but not across the Mediterranean.

Reports suggest more than 2,500 people have died in the Mediterranean this year alone, and according to the UNHCR, 216,300 people claimed asylum in the European Union during the first half of 2014 – a rise of nearly a quarter on the previous year.

External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“It is truly shocking that over 2,500 people are thought to have died in the Mediterranean this year. This shows that a year on from the Lampedusa tragedy, the Mediterranean continues to be Europe’s lost graveyard.

“I have raised this issue in previous meetings and in writing and at today’s meeting I have urged the UK Government not to abdicate responsibility and play their part in securing agreement across the EU to treat the war and crises on the southern border with the same level of attention as those to the East – where we have rightly seen long term and committed action to resolve issues.

“In October the Mare Nostrum programme, which was set up to save the lives of people who risked drowning in their desperate attempts to reach the safety of Europe, came to an end.

“Although a limited joint EU border protection operation has been launched, providing patrols within 30 miles of the Italian coast, it does not have any search and rescue functions across the Mediterranean. What’s more the UK Government should urgently consider whether it can contribute more to this effort than the reported one person currently playing a part.

“Migration into the EU from third countries is an area which requires collective action across EU. This is not a simple issue, but we cannot stand by and do nothing while people are drowning. The European Union has a history of addressing complex problems and we must work together to help end the tragic loss of live in the Mediterranean Sea.”


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