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Thousands more migrants rescued at sea

By Ann Marie Foley - 05 May, 2015

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Thousands of migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean over the weekend.

French and Italian navy vessels were involved in what was one of the biggest rescue operations yet.

Up to 5,800 migrants were taken from flimsy boats near the coast of Libya on over the weekend.

The migrants, some of whom feared for their lives as their boat was taking on water, were taken to Italy, in particular the port of Pozzallo on the island of Sicily.

At least ten bodies have been recovered from over-crowded boats and the sea. Two weeks ago nearly 900 people drowned in what has been called the worst Mediterranean incident in living memory.

They want what all human beings want: life, dignity and a chance to earn a decent living Pope Francis said at the time.

At the Regina Coeli prayer on 19 April just hours after the news broke of the death of the migrants, Pope Francis called on the international community to act decisively and quickly to prevent the deaths of more migrants.

“They are men and women like us, our brothers and sisters who seek a better life; hungry, persecuted, injured, exploited, victims of war – they seek a better life. They were seeking happiness,” the Pontiff said.

Pope Francis had spoken to the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, who called on the European Union for concrete assistance in regulating migration, patrolling the waters and rescuing those at risk of drowning.

Éamonn Meehan of Trocaire

On 24 April, Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire, addressed the issue in an article written as EU leaders met to discuss the plight of the migrants.

An estimated 1,800 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year.

In 2014, approximately 3,500 men, women and children boarded boats in the hope of reaching Europe only to perish in the sea.

He stated that growing numbers of voters believe Europe is being asked to resettle disproportionately high numbers of refugees, but this is not the case.

“According to the United Nations, 86 percent of refugees are living in developing countries. Of the top ten refugee-hosting countries, six are in Asia or the Middle East while four are in Africa. None are in the EU,” he said.

“The three countries at the top of that list – Pakistan, Lebanon and Iran – are home to 3.7m refugees between them. That figure stands in stark contrast to the 570,820 asylum applications lodged across all 28 EU countries in 2014.”

He added that Ireland has the ninth lowest number of asylum applications in the EU, with just 6,560 people having sought asylum over the last five years.

Mr Meehan called for the EU to take practical steps to reduce the risk to people embarking on the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean but it also needs to “tackle the myth that we are being asked to unfairly shoulder the burden of migration.”

Forced migration as a result of war or crisis is a global problem and the statistics show that poorer countries are impacted much more than richer ones.

It is also vitally important that we look at ways to reduce the number of people living in such misery that they are willing to risk their lives in order to live in poverty in Europe.

He cautioned that this could be the start of a much deeper migration crisis as climate change threatens to displace millions over the coming decades.

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