1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Symbolbild - Flüchtlingsboot Mittelmeer
Image: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Europe must prioritize asylum in Med: UN

April 22, 2015

The UN has expressed concern over increased people smuggling in the Mediterranean following a deadly weekend shipwreck. Ahead of an EU summit, Chancellor Merkel has said simply blocking migrants is not the solution.


On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expressed concern over perils faced by migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Early Sunday, a boat capsized off Libya en route to an Italian island.

Only 27 people are known to have survived the disaster; at least 900 people are feared to have drowned. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sunday's incident was the "deadliest" ever recorded in the Mediterranean.

"The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya," said the 15-nation body.

On Monday, Italy's coast guard took two survivors into custody. Authorities detained 25-year-old crew member Mahmud Bikhit, a Syrian national, on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration and Captain Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, on suspicion of multiple murders, causing a shipwreck and aiding illegal immigration.

'Cargo of death'

UK officials have announced possible help for fellow EU members dealing with the deaths in the Mediterranean. Late Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told national broadcaster BBC that he wanted a "more formidable operation on the sea," while Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to keep migrants from traveling in order to "stop this cargo of death."

Cameron planned to elaborate on the UK's plans on Thursday at an emergency summit of European leaders called to address the crisis. On Monday, EU leaders released a 10-point plan to prevent further deaths.

"We need to make sure that the asylum component and the protection of people component is one that is prioritized within these measures," Volker Turk, assistant UN High Commissioner for protection, said in Geneva Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel favors of three-pronged approach. Addressing lawmakers from her Christian Democrats-Christian Social Union faction on Tuesday, Merkel said the EU should focus on "rescuing, going after traffickers and fighting the causes of migration," and stressed that simply blocking the arrival of migrants would not solve the problem.

A group of German writers has demanded that Europe do more to protect vulnerable migrants.

More than 36,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, according to the United Nations, most of them fleeing from Libya. UN officials fear that nearly 1,800 people have died in attempted crossings of the Mediterranean.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the Mediterranean as "fast becoming a sea of misery." He added: "More than twice as many migrants have died at sea in the past year than on the Titanic. It should shock the global conscience."

mkg/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

Skip next section Related topics