UK body bag protest over Mediterranean boat crisis

22nd April 2015, Comments 0 comments

Body bags were strewn across Brighton beach on England's south coast on Wednesday as part of an Amnesty protest against Britain's "shameful" response to the Mediterranean migrant-boat crisis.

Dozens of supporters of the London-based rights group lined up 200 black body bags on the famous shingle beach on the eve of an emergency meeting of European leaders in Brussels aimed at ending the crisis, which has claimed more than 1,750 lives this year.

Campaigners and members of the public carrying balloons watched as around 20 supporters zipped themselves into the bags, alongside a banner displaying the hashtag #DontLetThemDrown.

"Until now, the UK government's response has been shameful but finally they have been woken up to the need to act," said Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen.

"EU governments must now urgently turn their rhetoric into action to stop more people drowning on their way to Europe."

Prime Minister David Cameron will attend the Brussels summit, which comes after EU ministers announced plans to increase resources for Mediterranean border patrol mission Triton.

Triton replaced the Italian Navy's search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum, which was much larger in scope but suspended late last year after fellow EU members refused additional funds.

Britain's government announced last October it would not support search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, saying they had "an unintended 'pull factor', encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths."

In a report released in Paris on Wednesday, Amnesty blamed the suspension of Mare Nostrum for the increased death toll and urged an immediate continent-wide humanitarian operation involving ships and planes.

Some 800 people are feared to have drowned when an overcrowded boat carrying migrants capsized on Sunday, the latest in a series of migrant shipwrecks.


© 2015 AFP

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