By Judith Orr
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Raids and more border patrols won’t help desperate refugees

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Issue 2451
Part of aprotest in London last Saturday in solidarity with migrants
Part of aprotest in London last Saturday in solidarity with migrants (Pic: Guy Smallman)

European leaders pledged more money to patrol the Mediterranean Sea after the deaths of 1,300 refugees in just one week last month.

Already some 1,776 refugees have died this year, compared to 56 for the same period last year.

But politicians at the Brussels emergency summit on Thursday of last week did not offer support or a safe haven for refugees fleeing war and poverty.

Instead they made it clear that while the military vessels they’re mobilising may rescue people, they do not want those refugees getting into Europe.

David Cameron said that he did not want migrants who were rescued to come to Britain. 

The £645 million a month pledged is only equivalent to that spent by Italy on its own search and rescue program, Mare Nostrum, which it cancelled last year. 

The money will be spent on enlarging Triton, the very limited operation that replaced Mare Nostrum. It is run by European Union (EU) border agency Frontex.

EU leaders were forced to acknowledge that the deaths were a humanitarian tragedy. But they see the situation as a security issue. 

Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri, was in no doubt about its brief being tighter border control rather than saving lives. He said, “Triton cannot be a search-and-rescue operation.”

Last year 150,000 migrants made it to Italy and most got deported. At the moment the new plans are to offer “resettlement” to 5,000 people.


The EU plans increased resources to process people who reach Italian shores. 

But this simply means speeding up finger printing and document checks to deport them more quickly. The summit also called for a military plan to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”. 

It is not clear how they plan such a military operation against ordinary fishing boats.

But destroying boats will do nothing to change the circumstances that lead people to risk everything to escape from war and poverty. It will just mean people will try to travel by other means—perhaps even more risky ones.

Ed Miliband pointed to David Cameron’s responsibility for the chaos in Libya in the aftermath of Western bombing there in 2011.

The West does have a responsibility for the impact of its military interventions in the region. But this also includes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, led by Tony Blair’s Labour government.

Further military intervention will not help migrants fleeing violence.

Instead of gunboats they need to be welcomed and offered a place to live in safety when they are rescued.

‘Our human rights are a joke’

Muhammed from Syria works with refugees in Istanbul. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the struggles they face:

“People have to move on because you can’t live without papers. But if you do move then you start from zero.

I stay here because my family is here now.

I can’t renew my passport, but I can’t go to the Syrian authorities. With an expired passport you are treated like an expired person. Somehow you need to renew yourself.

You can’t even buy a sim card without a passport. If you have money you can’t withdraw it from the bank. You can’t officially get any travel documents.

So we have no papers and can’t get them.

This war has killed 300,000 people. Thousands leave Syria, but no one believes them.

When a few refugees actually get to Europe they say send them back. 

It’s a joke. Syrians laugh when they hear the West talk about human rights.”

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