Yesterday, Amnesty International France commemorated the Titanic's anniversary (15th April 1912) by reminding us that the migrant death toll in the Mediterranean in 2014 is equivalent to the sinking of not one, but two Titanic.
Death toll on the rise
The image, released on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, followed yet another tragedy at sea. Last Sunday, 400 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean off the coasts of Libya.
That is more than the death toll of the famous Lampedusa shipwreck on October 3rd 2013 that caused the EU to react. Then European Commission for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström stated, "Let's make sure that what happened in Lampedusa will be a wakeup call to increase solidarity and mutual support and to prevent similar tragedies in the future." Indeed, there had been increased solidarity, as the European Mare Nostrum mission, under Italian command, was set up to save migrants at sea off the Libyan coasts.
A year later, on 31st October 2014, the EU announced the end of Mare Nostrum due to budget constraints. It had saved an estimated 170,000 lives, but was to be replaced by Operation Triton, coordinated by Frontex. Rather than a humanitarian mission, its aim is to control Italian borders and fight against illegal immigration and the smuggling of migrants.
Costly and ineffective decisions
However, Italian patrol ships are still called upon and mobilized to save migrants from the shipwrecks off the Libyan coasts. They just don't have a European framework to it anymore.
With the rise of shipwrecks, the European Commission extended Triton until at least the end of 2015 and unlocked another 13,7 millions euros on February 17th in order to support Italy in its assistance to migrants. Costly, but not the most effective policy. With thousands of migrants arriving in Italy each week (increasingly as the weather conditions improves), the country is overwhelmed. Over 10,000 migrants have arrived since the beginning of the month.
As the EU struggles to define a comprehensive migration plan to be released in May that can combine saving lives and fighting against illegal immigration and human smuggling, migrants - people - are still drowning.