PM appeals for urgent EU response to latest migrant disaster in Mediterranean

In an appeal to European Union governments on Sunday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said they must urgently come up with a plan for dealing with the waves of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, following the latest disaster in the Mediterranean.

“The new humanitarian tragedy with hundreds of dead in the sea off Lampedusa fills us with grief and concern. None of us can stand by passively when hundreds of souls are lost in the Mediterranean, in their effort to escape war and poverty. Europe can not cite the foremost value of human life unless it takes action to stop this continuing tragedy. To stop the Mediterranean being a graveyard-sea and the European countries of the south being warehouses of human souls,” Tsipras said in a statement.

“I send an urgent plea to the governments of EU member-states to immediately form a cohesive plan to deal with the humanitarian crisis we are up against,” he emphasised.

He said that such a plan should act on three levels, namely:

– Upgrading structures for handling migration and for search and rescue in the Mediterranean

– Supporting European Mediterranean countries that received numbers of migrants and refugees far exceeding their capacities to cope, with a fair distribution of the burden on the level of financial aid and hospitality

– Undertaking diplomatic initiatives for a peaceful resolution of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as for an effective handling of jihadism.

“I spoke on the telephone with the prime minister of Italy, Mr. Renzi, in order to express my grief for the victims of this tragic incident and my support for his proposal to immediately convene an urgent European Council on the issue of handling migration in the Mediterranean.

At the same time, I repeated the proposal I had made to convene a conference of EU Mediterranean country leaders, so that the countries most directly affected by this phenomenon might coordinate and better highlight this issue on a European level. There is no time to waste. Tardiness costs human lives,” Tsipras said.
Feverish deliberations were underway on Sunday between the European Commission and the EU member-states, in the wake of the tragic disaster in the Mediterranean, with up to 700 irregular migrants feared drowned in their attempt to reach Europe. The issue will be discussed during Monday’s meeting in Athens between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis, in an effort to create Greece’s own road map on migration policy to present to its EU partners.

Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Sunday repeated a call for action on a European level to deal with the waves of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean, in statements following the news.

“The new sacrifice of refugees off Lampedusa shocks us all. The Mediterranean, from a seaway for cultures is converted to a watery grave for thousands of souls attempting to flee the flames of war,” Sakellaridis said in a written statement concerning the shipwreck.

Hundreds are feared dead after a boat carrying roughly 700 people capsized at midnight, in Libyan water south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.