• France's news in English

France 'must do more' to end migrant tragedies

Ben McPartland · 20 Apr 2015, 11:33

Published: 20 Apr 2015 11:33 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France and the rest of the EU faced mounting pressure on Monday after the latest migrant boat shipwreck in the Mediterranean left up 700 people dead.

With foreign and interior ministers set for an urgent meeting there were reports that another boat carrying 300 migrants was in trouble in the same sea, that has been described as a vast cemetery.

The latest disasters come after a week in which two other shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead. For Jean-François Corty, from the aid organisation Medecins du Monde, the time for talking is over.

“Meetings are not enough anymore. We need concrete action and policies put in place immediately because hundreds of people are dying each week in the Mediterranean. The sea has become a vast cemetery,” Corty told The Local.

Corty, who is the director of operations in France for Medecins du Monde, says France and the rest of Europe must “either act now or simply accept the deaths of hundreds of migrants.”

“And if they don't act then we are faced with a crisis of our values,” he said.

Medecins du Monde has heavily criticized France and other EU countries for having a policy of not improving the welcome and protection offered to asylum seekers out of fear that it will simply encourage more to come.

“This argument is dead now. We can’t accept it anymore," Corty said

“These people will try anything to get to Europe and the government needs to take measures that correspond to this reality and to protect these people,” he added.

For more coverage on the boat tragedy, visit our sister site The Local Italy

Corty says France must do more to help Italy, “which is on the front line in the crisis.”

Improving its welcome for asylum seekers and increasing its capacity to take in more refugees are two ways France alone could act to take the weight off Italy.

France could also deploy greater maritime resources to help rescue migrants who make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean sea from Libya or Egypt.

“France and other EU countries have to accept the idea that they must protect these people who are fleeing war or unjust regimes. These migrants are not just coming for economic reasons. They have no alternative,” he said.

Paris could also use its political influence over countries like Eritrea to try to ease the conflict in the country, which is prompting so many to flee.

The press across Europe also laid into the EU and its member states on Monday for failing to protect migrants.

France's Le Figaro suggested that Europeans go to the United Nations and ask for permission to police the Libyan coast, from where countless boats depart, profiting from the country's political strife.

Story continues below…

President François Hollande said on Sunday that Europe “must act” against the growing catalogue of mass drownings of migrants attempting to reach its shores, and called for closer surveillance of the routes used by smugglers.

He did not however spell out what France would or could do to help ease the situation.

Hollande called for "more boats, more aerial surveillance and an intensified fight against trafficking".

"Because those who put these people on boats are traffickers, terrorists even, because they know these boats are lousy... and put hundreds of people in danger."

Many of the migrants who survive the perilous boat trips to Italy make their way north to France and up to Calais where hundreds are amassed, in the hope of making it across the sea to the UK.

Corty and Medecins du Monde have been pressurizing the French government to ease the situation for the migrants in Calais, most of whom are living in squalor in makeshift camps.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Homeless man dines at top tables in France, then runs off
Photo: Prayitno/Flickr

"A man's gotta eat," he told police, after racking up gigantic bills in some of France's plushest restaurants.

Underwater museum hopes to make a splash in Marseille
A similar underwater museum piece by Jason deCaires Taylor. Photo: julie rohloff/Flickr

Don't forget your scuba gear...

Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Photo: Jacme/Flickr

Move over Paris...

And France's top chef of the year is... 'Monsieur Idiot'
Alexandre Couillon might have an unfortunate name, but he can sure cook!. Photo: AFP

Look beyond the name. He's the man who turned his family's humble "moules frites" joint into one of France's best seafood restaurants.

Could France do more to ease the worries of 'Brexpats'?
Photo: AFP

Paris is rolling out the red tape for British firms, so why not British citizens in France?

Brexit: Brits in France could face 'cataclysmic' impact
Photo: AFP

Can't France make it easier for Britons to get French nationality?

In their own words: Why French police are in revolt
"Solidarity with our colleagues". Police protesting near Paris. Photo: AFP

Police have staged protests for three nights in a row across France. Here's why they say they're fed up.

France leaning right six months before election
Candidates for the right-wing Les Republicains Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

... and the left has been left in suspended animation.

Disgruntled French police stage protests for third night
Photo: AFP

The French government is struggling to deal with a revolt among the country's police force.

Scarlett Johansson to run Paris gourmet popcorn shop
Photo: AFP

She'll even be serving customers apparently.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
Want to drive a scooter around Paris? Here's what you need to know
jobs available