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Rome, 3 October 2013 – Today's tragic death of more than 80 men, women and children trying to seek safety in Europe marks the umpteenth tragedy in the Mediterranean this year. The continued inaction by the Italian authorities and the European Union is unjustifiable.
"Two days after the last tragedy at sea, we are again left to count the victims of yet another shipwreck in the Mediterranean", said the Director of Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service Italy), Giovanna La Manna SJ.
"We are deeply saddened by this unnecessary loss of life of those who were already fleeing their homes and families in hope of a more secure and protected future", said JRS International Director, Peter Balleis SJ.
Although the precise number of those left dead at sea is still not clear, more than 80 bodies have been identified. In total, more than 500, including 30 children, were in the boat which was shipwrecked off the coast of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
JRS Italy reiterated that the call by Pope Francis that "no more deaths in the Mediterranean" should now become a priority for the EU institutions and the national government.
According to Fr La Manna, the Italian government should immediately ask the European Commission to establish a humanitarian channel to the continent so that victims of war and conflict can safely obtain international protection.
Guaranteeing the rights to asylum means allowing refugees and forced migrants to safely arrive to our countries without risking death by relying on smugglers, added JRS Italy.
"It is unacceptable and shameful that in 2013 the arrival of a ramshackle boat carrying 500 people in the Mediterranean Sea can be met with indifference. Expressing formal mourning for the dead is not enough to remove blame and responsibility. We must welcome them alive, otherwise we are as guilty as those who organise the smuggling of human beings", said Fr La Manna.
The European Union and member state governments, Fr La Manna continued, should intervene as soon as possible to ensure that people can exercise their right to asylum safely.
In particular, Centro Astalli called on EU and national decision makers to seriously consider making the EU border agency, Frontex, responsible for monitoring arrivals of forced migrants fleeing war and persecution and guaranteeing they are able to safely seek asylum in Europe.
For further information contact
Ms Donatella Parisi
JRS Italy (Centro Astalli)
Tel: +39 06 6992 5099; firstname.lastname@example.org