A coalition of aid, refugee and human rights agencies have called on David Cameron to ‘prioritise saving lives’ ahead of a crisis summit on the Mediterranean to be held by European leaders on Thursday.
In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, coordinated by the British Refugee Council, the charities including Oxfam and Amnesty International UK, call for more to be done to help people reach safety in Europe.
The letter calls for the Prime Minister to ‘prioritise saving lives and opening up alternative routes to safety’.
“The gloomy backdrop to the horrific human tragedy occurring in the Mediterranean is that there is a lack of safe and legal ways for refugees to access protection in Europe. Britain offers no ‘asylum visa’.
“There is no easy answer to this crisis, but the solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown. Until safer ways to seek refuge are found, more people will be forced into the hands of smugglers and onto unseaworthy boats in their search for a safe haven. At the moment, European and Britain’s immigration policies leave many with no other choice.
“Building the walls of fortress Europe has had disgracefully deadly results. It’s time for a new approach, which prioritises saving lives and opening up alternative routes to safety. As we’ve seen, it’s a matter of life and death.”
The letter comes following the publication of a 10 point action plan published by the European Commission’s Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council aimed at addressing the crisis.
Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren added: “If a building’s on fire, you don’t respond by locking people inside. Similarly, Europe’s first response to people fleeing persecution and the horrors of war shouldn’t be to cut off people’s escape routes, pull up the drawbridge and watch on impassively while men, women and children are swallowed by the sea.
“Instead we should be offering help to those who desperately need it and creating alternative ways for them to reach safety.”