News / Africa

NATO, EU Defend Record of Saving African Migrants

Hundreds of migrants arrive at the port moments before to flee fighting in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, May 4, 2011
Hundreds of migrants arrive at the port moments before to flee fighting in the besieged Libyan city of Misrata, May 4, 2011

NATO and the European Union say they are doing what they can to help African migrants in trouble at sea amid calls by the United Nations to intervene.

As hundreds of migrants continue to set sail from North Africa to Europe, and the death toll of casualties climbs. Questions are also mounting about efforts to save those foundering at sea.

Britain's Guardian newspaper has reported that African survivors of a troubled vessel accused European and NATO units of ignoring their calls for help.  And on Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency appealed to NATO and the European Union to intervene to help save lives, following reports that a boat carrying hundreds of Africans sank off the coast of Italy.

At a press conference on Tuesday, NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said that while NATO's mandate was to protect civilians in Libya, the alliance was also helping those at sea.

"While they are carrying out that mandate, ships under NATO command will always respond to calls from ships in distress. This is the duty under the Law of the Sea and to suggest that our ships' captains would do otherwise is unfair and ... disrespectful," he said.

For example, Romero said that in March, NATO helped two foundering ships carrying 500 people.  She also said there were allegations the Libyan government recently forced migrants into at least one boat which sank soon after.

An EU spokesman said the European FRONTEX border protection agency had also rescued those at sea. "This is the Hermes program and we have seen it in action just this weekend in [the Italian island of] Lampedusa where scores of people were saved off the coast of Lampedusa," he said.

Analyst Hugo Brady, of the London-based Center for European Reform, says the sea migration from Africa to Europe has been going on for years.  But the numbers have spiked with the recent Arab uprisings.

"The reason why the Arab Spring has created so much instability in migration terms is ... obviously people are escaping a very difficult situation," said Brady.

Brady says the turmoil in Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere also means these countries no longer patrol their coastlines to prevent migrants from heading to Europe.

The plight of these sea migrants is part of a larger European debate about how to deal with those fleeing the Arab turmoil. For example, there are discussions on tightening Europe's open-borders Schengen agreement.

David Nichols, senior executive for rights group Amnesty International in Brussels, says Europe should be welcoming these migrants, not turning them away.

"All of the rhetoric coming from the EU is completely skewed and it has been completely skewed for a long time now towards trying to prevent people from crossing into Europe, from crossing European borders.  Nothing at all about actually helping people who are in a desperate situation," he said.

European Union ministers are meeting later this week to discuss the African migration dilemma and how to deal with it.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid