GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer has reacted following yesterday's extraordinary European Council meeting on the situation in the Mediterranean.

The German MEP said: “Instead of focusing efforts on rescuing refugees, the EU's Heads of State and Government have instead reinforced border defence through Frontex and its operation Triton. Tripling the available funding to 9 million euros a month is insufficient without expanding the area where rescue operations are carried out. Only by expanding the area was the Italian Mare Nostrum programme able to save 150,810 people from drowning with a similar budget of 110 million euros a year.

She also criticised the idea of fighting human traffickers by military means as this only worsens the situation for refugees and migrants.

MEP Zimmer continued: “The EU needs an independent programme that rescues refugees and migrants in distress. This is the only way we can meet our moral duty and by doing so we wouldn't have to shed crocodile tears every few weeks for the drowned. The European Parliament should block any future EU budget which does not include such a programme. People fleeing destitution, war and misery need a legal and safe way to the EU. Otherwise they are left to the mercy of criminal traffickers.”

Zimmer also commented on British Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement that while he is prepared to rescue the refugees and offload them in Italy, he won't relocate any in the UK.

“This attitude highlights how far we are from a common European solution on migration,” she said. “While initially 5000 places were mentioned for a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU, in the final summit text, even this small figure of 5000 had disappeared.”

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