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AID WORKERS urged European Union leaders to “come to their senses” yesterday after 220 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean last week.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) called for an end to aggressive policies that “trap” people in war-torn countries like Syria and Libya or leave them to die at sea.
MSF head of emergencies Karline Kleijer said that EU member states are “abdicating their responsibilities to save lives and are deliberately condemning vulnerable people to be trapped in Libya or die at sea.
They do this fully aware of the extreme violence and abuses that refugees and migrants suffer in Libya.”
At yesterday’s EU summit on refugees, leaders agreed to new proposals including plans for “controlled centres” for asylum-seekers and “regional disembarkation platforms” for those rescued at sea.
MSF said last week’s 220 deaths were “avoidable tragedies,” blaming EU governments for blocking aid groups’ search and rescue operations.
It accused the EU of relying on the underdeveloped Libyan coastguard as a way of “turning over responsibility” for the disasters, warning that it opened up refugees to detention and torture in Libya.
And Amnesty International European director Iverna McGowan warned that the EU had agreed to a “raft” of “dangerous and self-serving policies which could expose men, women and children to serious abuses.”
EU leaders were locked in emergency talks until 5am yesterday morning, prompting outraged Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to say: “I propose we should establish a trade union to defend our rights. What time of working hours is this?”
Bulgaria is not normally a friend of workers’ organisations — the International Trade Union Confederation says unions there face “regular violation of rights.”
Members are often targets for dismissal and harassment with bosses banning trade union membership and forcing new employees to sign declarations that they will not join a union.
The marathon talks agreed to establish so-called closed migrant centres under pressure from Italy, which threatened to veto the summit’s entire agenda.
The centres have been branded “migrant prisons” and would determine the legal status of refugees with those deemed to be “illegal” after being processed turned away.
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