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Three years ago today (31 October 2017), EU pressure on Italy forced the end of one the EU’s most successful humanitarian mission, ‘Mare Nostrum’, a search-and-rescue operation that in just one year brought 130,000 refugees safely to Europe’s shores. Ben Hayes and Frank Barat of the Transnational Institute look back on three years since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum.

© Matteo Penna

(31 October 2017) - As European politicians retreated from their humanitarian obligations, its citizens demonstrated Europe’s tradition of compassion, solidarity and commitment to the Geneva Conventions.

In his first State of the Union address, EU Commission President Juncker had even praised the volunteers as representative of the kind of “Europe I want to live in”. Yet just a few short years later, the Union looks very different, and Juncker is silent as those very same activists are now being treated as criminals rather than heroes.

The criminalisation of refugee solidarity is the latest salvo in an EU policy long predicated on stopping refugees reaching in EU states at any cost, be that by letting them drown, confining them to camps in Turkey, or paying brutal Libyan militiamen to prevent their departure.

Three years ago, Europe’s citizens stepped in where its leaders failed – showing the compassion and solidarity upon which the EU is founded. It is time for Europe’s politicians to show the same courage and end a duplicitous policy capable only of piling misery of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. (EurActiv)

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