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    Sea Watch: ‘EU Turns Blind Eye to Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean’

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    After 800 refugees drowned when their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea on May 18, 2015, in the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe, the first Sea Watch boat went out to patrol the troubled waters separating Europe from Africa. Radio Sputnik discussed the matter with Sea Watch activist Ruben Neugebauer.

    “When we went out to sea in our Sea Watch-1 boat we hoped things would change for the better, that some political measures would be taken to legalize the refugees’ arrival to Europe. We also hoped that the authorities would make sure that these people never again use those illegal boats and would realize that refugees should be allowed to seek asylum without putting their life at risk,” Ruben Neugebauer said.

    Ruben said that things hadn’t changed much ever since and blamed the EU for the death of hundreds of migrants.

    “They are turning a blind eye to the crises happening in the world instead of looking for ways to resolve them,” he said, adding that the launch of the Sea Watch-2 boat symbolized the failure of this policy proving that the problem is still there.

    When asked how many people they had managed to save over the past year, Ruben said they had brought ashore around 2,000 and helped a total of 5,000.

    In October 2013, after at least 360 migrants died when their boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italy launched an extensive search-and-rescue operation known as Mare Nostrum.

    Less than 13 months later the government halted the program, citing overwhelming numbers and a lack of financial support from other European Union members.

    The program that succeeded Mare Nostrum, known as Operation Triton and run by Frontex, the border agency of the EU, has a vastly different mandate. It was tasked not with saving migrants, but securing Europe’s borders. 

    Ruben Neugebauer
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    Ruben Neugebauer

    Frontex then warned that the cancellation of Mare Nostrum and its replacement with a smaller-scale mission would increase the number of refugee deaths.

    Ruben Neugebauer believes that the EU was fully aware of that and still encouraged migrants to use those flimsy inflatable boats whose owners charge them more than they would pay for a similar trip on a legal ferry shuttling between Tunisia and Sicily.

    Reuben said that this was happening because the EU ignored the problem and listened to rightwing loudmouths and not the majority of Europeans ready to accept the migrants.

    “The situation begs for political decisions to legalize the migrants’ entry [to Europe] so that people can use their right to asylum without putting their life on the line,” Ruben emphasized.

    “We want the EU stand up to the rightwing forces demanding all kinds of barriers and quotas. There are fundamental values in Europe that make sure that people do not die every day. I want politicians and all those concerned to say loud and clear that this everyday loss of human life in the Mediterranean must be stopped once and for all,” Reuben Neugebauer said in conclusion.

    Related:

    At Least 10 Migrants Killed After Several Boats Capsize in Mediterranean
    At Least 200 Migrants Missing After 4 Boats Sink in Mediterranean - UNHCR
    Tags:
    European Union, failed policy, refugee deaths, illegal boats, global crises, migrants, Sea Watch-2, Sea Watch-1, Frontex, Ruben Neugebauer, Germany
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