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28th May 2015, 14:05:21 UTC

At this weekend’s Forbidden Fruit Festival in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Amnesty International Ireland activists will be campaigning on SOS Europe – we will be asking festival goers to support our calls all countries in the European Union, including Ireland, to act to save refugee and migrant lives at sea.

SOS Europe is an Amnesty International campaign centred on the thousands of refugees and migrants who are dying in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe’s shores.

Since the year 2000 at least 23,000 people have died in the Mediterranean making it the world’s deadliest border crossing. Recently this year we saw the deaths of over 900 people packed onto one boat as they tried to flee persecution, conflict and poverty and reach safety in Europe.

Amnesty International is calling on European Governments to take the right kind of action that prioritises people before borders. We are asking that Operation Triton be more like the Italy’s search-and-rescue mission Mare Nostrum. This week’s announcement in Brussels that the resources and operational area for Operation Triton are to be increased are welcome but still lives remain at risk.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:

“In November of last year Italy brought its search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, to an end as it could no longer sustain its mammoth efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean without support from its fellow EU member states. Europe stood by as hundreds died as a direct result of their failure to act.

“Thankfully, Europe has now finally begun to act. The recommencement of a properly resourced search and rescue mission is a start. In practice, this means more assets at sea, closer to where most refugees and migrants, travelling on overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, get into trouble and risk drowning.

However, lives are still at risk. Safe and legal routes need to be made available to those seeking international protection in Europe. The number of refugees Europe takes in needs to be increased. The world is in the midst of the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, and Europe is simply not doing enough to respond to this crisis. Europe’s at times pitiful response does not in any way reflect that many of those fleeing are not simply seeking a better life, they are trying to stay alive and fleeing persecution. Most are from Syria and Eritrea and other conflict zones. They travel for months, risking everything they possess to try to make it to Europe knowing that they might die trying.

“We cannot ignore the plight of these people. The EU and European States must understand that we have a responsibility to take in more refugees and to ensure that proper search and rescue missions are in place to avoid unnecessary deaths.”