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A holistic approach is required to stop migrant deaths at sea – Dr Dallal Stevens

Dr Dallal Stevens, whose research interests relate to refugee and asylum law and policy, said:

“The question is: will EU leaders gathering at their emergency summit today in Brussels rise to the challenge and meet their international protection obligations?

“Even before they have met, the outlook does not look promising. The head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, has already stated that search and rescue missions are not within Frontex’s mandate; former UK foreign secretary, William Hague, has described the issue as one of ‘immigration’ and warned against solutions that ‘relax immigration controls’ or lead to ‘uncontrolled immigration’; and the proposal to destroy vessels used by smugglers, even if feasible, does not resolve the plight of those who are refugees under international law and have a right to seek asylum. If they cannot leave, what then?

“While, understandably, there is much media attention currently focused on these tragic events, it should not be forgotten that we have been here before. People have been crossing the Mediterranean and drowning for decades. It is the scale and frequency that has changed. The EU response has been consistent: deterrence and border controls. It is time, however, that EU leaders recognise that deterrence and control are never going to be sufficient; nor are they legally or morally acceptable, where refugees are concerned.

“A holistic approach is called for:

“In the short term, the response has to be humanitarian with rescue at the forefront; migrants must be properly screened to determine those in need of protection and EU states should share the responsibility of hosting refugees in accordance with duties of mutual co-operation and international solidarity. Most EU states are not resettling sufficient numbers of Syrian asylum seekers (one third of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in 2014 were Syrian; the UK has resettled only 140 to date) – this can be addressed quickly and relatively easily.

“In the medium to longer terms, greater investment in – and enforcement against – smuggling and trafficking networks is needed. The UNHCR is willing to consider processing arrangements in Africa and the Middle East with European involvement where resettlement is part of the possible outcome. It has also called upon EU countries to consider alternative forms of admission so that people no longer resort to smugglers. And there is acceptance that anyone not in need of protection can be removed from the EU territory if conducted safely and appropriately.

“Ultimately, people will always move so long as there is poverty, conflict and human rights abuse. The EU has an important role to play in improving conditions in the world and establishing compassionate, humane and workable policies. It is not just a question of ‘saving lives’; all humans are entitled to live their lives safely, and to flourish.”

Notes to Editors:

Dr Dallal Stevens is available for interviews.

Issued by Lee Page, Communications Manager, University of Warwick. Tel: +44 (0)2476 574 255, Mob: +44 (0)7920 531 221. Email:


Lee Page, Communications Manager

+44 (0)2476 574 255

+44 (0)7920 531 221