Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International President Dr. Christos Christou delivered the following speech on November 19 during the High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe, in a session about the "Relationship between solidarity and responsibility in migration and asylum management."
One week ago, at least 100 people died in the Mediterranean Sea. Among them was a six-month-old baby. The crew of Open Arms, the only NGO search and rescue boat able to operate at this moment, did everything they could to save him, but it was not enough.
In Greece, a father lost his six-year-old child while trying to cross the sea, seeking safety. In one of the most sickening situations we have heard about in years, he was arrested for putting the life of his son in danger and now risks up to 10 years in prison. Didn’t Europe already take enough from him?
In October, the bodies of seven young northern African men were found in a ship container in Paraguay. According to the investigations, they were trying to reach Croatia but after several push backs from Croatian police, they decided to hide in a container thinking they would reach Milan. Their bodies were found in an advanced state of decomposition, four months later on the other side of the world. They had no food or water, and suffocated in a terrible death.
We must be clear that these deaths—just like the horror of the Greek camps—come not as some kind of unexplainable accident. Rather, they are a direct consequence of deliberate policies, like the EU-Turkey deal, and the abdication of responsibility to conduct search and rescue operations, both in international waters and increasingly in areas which are formally under your responsibility. Are you really willing to accept these tragedies as some kind of “new unintended consequence”?
What Europe is experiencing today, is not a humanitarian crisis, but a crisis of humanity.