ITF president Paddy Crumlin, stated: “We welcome the recent naval rescues in European waters and the reversal of the scandalous ban by Indonesia and Malaysia that prevented refugees from being brought to shore. The humanitarian crisis in both these areas demands the maximum possible use of search and rescue services, alongside the assistance already being given by merchant and fishing vessels – which rescued 42,000 people in similar circumstances last year.
“It is good that seafarers and fishers – themselves economic migrants travelling the world at or in search of work – are no longer the first and sometimes only people saving the lives of the passengers on these decaying, human trafficking vessels. But the human crisis continues and must be addressed. Rescue must be coupled with resettlement. Conditions in the countries from which the migrants come must be improved as far as it is possible to do so. The responsibility for this is at the door of all of us.
“The chaos at sea dramatically illustrates the need for regulation. Where are these vessels coming from? Some at least will be, like the Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky-M, flag of convenience (FOC) ships, taking advantage of the lax oversight associated with those flag registers.”
He concluded: “Global inequality and lack of regulation are among the key causes of this appalling situation. It is trade unions that are doing something to rectify it.”
This latest message follows on from the joint appeal for action delivered by the ITF, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) (available here) – as well as last week’s declaration by the executive council of its European arm, the ETF, that the crisis was avoidable. The ETF called for:
1. The restoration of EU-funded search-and-rescue operations similar to the Mare Nostrum programme;
2. To increase effort to ensure suitable living conditions of asylum-seekers and refugees;
3. To comply with the UN Geneva Convention and to establish safe, legal routes for those who flee war and prosecution, and to increase the number of recognition of refugee status;
4. The suspension of the Dublin convention according to which the EU country of arrival is responsible for processing the asylum claims of applicants, placing an unfair strain on countries involved in the rescue operations, in this case Italy, Greece, Malta, Spain, and Cyprus;
5. To establish legal channels of migration and to support regularisation of undocumented migrants;
6. To support ethical recruitment and retention of migrant workers in the public sectors;
7. To carry out ex-ante social, economic and humanitarian impact assessments of EU external interventions.
The ETF statement can be read in full here.