CAPE TOWN, 18 September 2015:Â The European Union should provide safe passage for thousands of people fleeing violence and seeking protection crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, the international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday.
“We have never seen so many people resorting to reaching Europe by sea, often in boats that are completely unseaworthy. The only way to stop this tragedy is to create safe and legal alternatives to these dangerous journeys,” the MSF said in a statement issued in Cape Town.
“The current policies are untenable in the face of this situation. They are not numbers, they are people like you and I,” said Lindis Hurum, MSF coordinator of the Bourbon Argos rescue ship.
The MSF’s demand is motivated by direct experience since medical teams aboard three search and rescue vessels have rescued 15,699 people from the deadly waters since May 2015.
To date more than 400,000 people have faced the deadly dilemma of perilous crossings on the Mediterranean in desperate efforts to escape violence. Nearly 2,750 people have died, or have gone missing this year alone.
To maintain their independent medical work, the MSF called on South Africans to support medical sea rescue teams.
“Our doctors and nurses treat conditions, including hypothermia and dehydration, along with acute conditions requiring medical evacuation such as septic shock, pneumonia and wounds inflicted by abuse and violence,” said Hurum.
MSF teams also work to improve living conditions and the human dignity for people stranded in Greece, Italy, Macedonia and Serbia, he said. But all of our work amounts to plugging gaps left by EU states unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibilities. EU policies need to change to save lives,” said Hurum.
Over time, Europe’s policies have grown more restrictive and it has put some of the world’s most vulnerable people in greater peril, said AurÃ©lie Ponthieu, MSF Humanitarian Adviser on Displacement.
“Sealing its land borders, Europe forces people into the hands of smugglers and into overcrowded boats. We are not asking for the end of borders, but putting people’s lives, or health at risk for the sake of border control is not the solution. People who seek asylum have the right to ask for it at all borders,”Ponthieu said.
To date 12 million Syrians have been displaced by the ongoing war and 8 million have fled to other parts of Syria.
4 million among them live as refugees in the countries that surround Syria. Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan have long reached their limits and are overwhelmed.