Rescuers saved 9,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea over a period of just three days last weekend. With no sign of the migration to Europe slowing down, a debate is raging about how far the European Union should go to cope with the crisis.
Nongovernmental organizations running an increasing number of rescue missions have argued that Europe should do more to help save people from drowning. But critics say ongoing operations provide a “pull” factor for migrants hoping to make the crossing to escape violence or poverty in their homelands, and some have accused charities of acting as a “taxi service” for smugglers taking advantage of the ongoing crisis.
Data from the International Organization for Immigration shows more than 32,000 people have attempted to cross into Europe this year — and 650 of them have died or gone missing along the way.
“We repeat our calls on Europe, on the governments, to be out there saving lives,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Babar Baloch said following the massive Easter weekend rescue operation. “Nongovernmental organizations have been a great help in terms of filling up that vacuum. What’s very important and what we need to remind again and again that saving lives is a must.”