Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sweden Offers Help For Mediterranean Crisis

Via The Local:

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has said that he's prepared to send Swedish Coast Guard surveillance ships and planes to the Mediterranean to help look out for migrant ships, in the wake of the growing humanitarian crisis in the region as refugees seek to enter Europe.

The Social Democrat leader said on Thursday that he was willing to answer any call for from help from Frontex, the EU agency that manages cooperation between national border guards to try and protect the 28 member bloc from illegal immigration and human trafficking.

His comments came ahead of an emergency EU summit taking place on Thursday. Country leaders have scheduled the meeting after it was revealed that around 800 victims, including an unknown number of children, died in hellish circumstances off the coast of Libya on Sunday.

The migrants had been locked in the hold or the middle deck of the 20-meter boat, according to survivors, which capsized when it collided with a Portuguese vessel.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday that the incident had occurred due to a "monumental failure of compassion" by the continent's rulers.

Meanwhile the head of the UN's maritime agency has warned that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean could surge to 500.000 this year, with deaths at sea reaching thousands if no action is taken against the people who traffic them.

Amnesty is among the campaign groups calling for a multi-country rescue mission in the Mediterranean.

Iverna McGowan, acting director of the organization’s European institutions office, told The Local: “The European Union is the sum of its member states, this is a regional issue. Their credibility on human rights is seriously at stake here".

While she said there had been “a glimmer of hope” this week as European governments had called for action, McGowan remained cautious of leaders’ willingness to act.

“The record over the past year and a half has been a cause for concern, there have been emotional statements but there hasn’t been action. Thursday is going to be the litmus test on the EU saving lives”, she said.

Sweden has previously sent planes and ships to the Mediterranean to help spot migrant boats.

The coast guard took part in Mediterranean operations in 2009, 2010, and 2013 and has contributed twice to the EU's anti-pirate mission off Somalia.

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