“Of course it is horrendous when traffickers in the Mediterranean abandon a ship with 450 refugees on the high seas, from whom they have previously extorted up to 6000 euro,” said Cornelia Ernst, GUE/NGL coordinator on Parliament's Civil liberties committee, during a debate on recent events in the Mediterranean in the European Parliament last night.

“And it is even more disgraceful to use an old cattle transport freighter with hundreds of refugees in cattle pens as a new business idea,” she continued.

MEP Ernst said: “EU asylum policies and FRONTEX encourage profit-hungry human smuggling and bear ultimate responsibility for the current situation. And the more member states believe that they do not have to change their repressive border protection policies, the worse methods of smuggling are going to get. What we need is a change of tack for asylum! We urgently need legal channels and safe access to Europe!”

“In a European Union in which, in the name of security, ministers of the interior are obsessed with collecting air passenger data, it is amazing that they can let the phenomenon of ghost ships – 13, in three months – with hundreds of people on board, continue,” said Barbara Spinelli.  “It is outrageous that some Mediterranean countries, in collusion with the traffickers, pretend not to see the ships, and refuse assistance when an SOS is made.”

“We demand a scrupulous respect of the obligations of rescue beyond 30 miles from the coast. We call for an end to human trafficking in the Mediterranean and the continuation of the right of asylum in Europe as well as the immediate establishment of legal humanitarian corridors,” said Ms Spinelli.

“Once again we are talking about a tragedy of migrants in the Mediterranean. And the death toll has never been so high,” said Marie-Christine Vergiat.

“Probably 4,000 people or more, mainly Syrians and Eritreans. Their nationality shows that they are potential asylum seekers that are not being given protection by EU member states. Never before have migrants taken so many risks; never have smugglers taken so few. So where is the solution? Surely it is not in closing borders, in referring problems to third countries and scaremongering,” Vergiat continued.

Speaking about her visit to the Spanish enclave of Melilla last weekend, Marina Albiol Guzman said she was “angry and pained” to see and listen to stories of women and children from Nigeria who were victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and had paid to get to Europe. She also spoke about refugees she met from Syria, Afghanistan, Mali and other war-torn countries. “So many displaced people fleeing wars that have been exacerbated by the West,” she said.

“We need humanitarian corridors, legal routes into Europe, otherwise these mafias trafficking in human beings will continue their work. If we don't change our policies we will be complicit with them,” she concluded.

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