In response to a report in the Guardian this week that people fleeing Libya died at sea due to the alleged failure of NATO forces to respond to appeals for help, Jonathan Ellis, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council said:
“We are appalled by devastating reports that the alleged failure of NATO forces to assist refugees fleeing violence in North Africa may have led to their deaths. This tragedy not only highlights the need to provide a route to safety for vulnerable people fleeing conflict in the region, but the need to ensure European countries and NATO forces are committed to their responsibility to protect these people.
“Rather than debating border arrangements, our governments must now work in solidarity to ensure that the humanitarian assistance they are offering people in North Africa is extended to those escaping violence there and travelling to the European continent. Our doors must remain open to them, and there is no reason we cannot manage this relatively small number of migrants if we work together to share responsibility.
“This year is the 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention, which all European countries have signed, so it is as important as ever we stand up for those fighting for democracy around the world, and give them the protection they so desperately need.”
The statement was also endorsed by Bjarte Vandvik, Secretary General of ECRE – the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.