More than 700 people are feared dead following yesterday’s capsize off Libya of a fishing boat crammed with people trying to reach Europe, with some reportedly locked below deck by smugglers and unable to fight their way out.
“The EU’s darkest day”, a “disgrace for the EU and its cynical, even macabre refugee policy”, “indifference is not an option”, declared the headlines.
Newspapers from Portugal to Sweden lashed out at the European Union, whose ministers were headed into crisis talks today after the latest tragedy, calling on the 28-member bloc to act once and for all.
“We cannot say ‘never again’ hundreds of times,” Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter wrote.
In Britain, The Telegraph focused on the EU meeting in Luxembourg, saying proposals should include immediate assistance for countries hosting the thousands of migrants.
It also called on more pressure to be piled onto countries such as Eritrea — from where many migrants flee open-ended military conscription, ruthless repression and other ills — to improve their rights record.
Belgium daily Le Soir singled out EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk, saying they had the duty to organise a coordinated response to the tragedy.
“European leaders knew full well that the number of victims at sea from African migration would smash records from the spring,” it wrote.
‘EU closing its eyes’
“Waiting impassively in front of the hourglass where every grain that drops is a lost human life could be explained by the blindness of some or the cynicism of others, waiting that a sufficient number of dead would create the conditions for mobilisation.”
Some newspapers called for a new search-and-rescue operation like Italy’s Mare Nostrum, which was scrapped in October due to budget constraints and critism from the EU that it was encouraging migrants to head to Europe across the Mediterranean.
“The Commission did what it does best: close its eyes and count the money,” Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias wrote.
“The Mediterranean has turned into a cemetery — the shame of Europe’s policy.”
“These are people like you and me — they’re not cockroaches,” London’s The Times said, referring to controversial remarks made by a British newspaper columnist that gunships should be used on migrant boats to turn them back.
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.
“On Sunday, we heard the words. Now we need to see the action –- or Europe will indeed be judged harshly,” Britain’s The Telegraph concluded. — AFP