Amnesty: EU does not value migrants’ lives

Migrants from North Africa arrive in the southern Italian island of Lampedusa March 7, 2011. (Reuters/Antonio Parrinello)
Europe cares about reinforcing its borders but not about human lives. The criticism comes from Amnesty International, which says in its report that European governments often endanger asylum-seekers by preventing them from reaching European shores.

­The human rights group says its campaign is aimed at holding to account any European country that practises human rights violations in the way it enforces migration controls.

“Today, Europe is failing to promote and respect the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees,” Amnesty alleges in a statement according to AP. “Hostility is widespread and mistreatment often goes unreported.”

The group is particularly concerned about what it calls “externalization,” which includes the common practice of ignoring asylum claims. Moreover, the report states Europe actively prevents Africans from reaching its shores by boat. As a result, in 2011 alone, at least 1,500 people, including women and children, drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Amnesty points out that many of those deaths could have been avoided had appropriate rescue measures been implemented.

“For the EU, reinforcing Europe's borders clearly trumps saving lives,” AP quoted the director of the organization's European Institutions Office, Nicolas Beger, as saying. “By attempting to curb irregular migration, European countries have bolstered border control measures beyond European frontiers without regard to the human cost."

Over the past 10 years, the report continues, European countries have started implementing various border control measures outside their own territories, in other countries or on the high seas. Last year, on several occasions, Italy sent people back to Libya, where they were subsequently detained and mistreated. In this way, Amnesty International explains, human rights abuses go unpunished along Europe's coasts.

The release of the report on Wednesday is expected to coincide with the launch of an online public petition urging the European Parliament to hold EU governments and institutions accountable for mistreating migrants.