Save Refugees Abandoned at Sea

refugees on a boat

Target: Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

Goal: Call on the European Union to provide for emergency rescue services to address the crisis of refugee boats abandoned by their crews near the European coast

Refugees fleeing the atrocities of war are seeking safety in Europe in ever-greater numbers. In 2014 more than 400,000 stateless people filed for asylum in Europe. The crisis has been exploited by human traffickers who are not above abandoning boats full of desperate refugees to drift in the open ocean. In the single year Italy maintained an emergency rescue operation some 100,000 shipwrecked migrants were rescued, according to CommonDreams. Although the “Mare Nostrum” program has since ended, the tragic practice of abandoning refugees to the mercy of the sea continues.

These shipwrecked boats regularly carry hundreds of men, women and children in cramped and unsanitary conditions. That they would accept such a precarious escape from their native countries says a great deal about the terrors they are running from. “We have expressed concerns over the ending of this operation [Mare Nostrum] without a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it,” said Europe Bureau Director for the United Nations Refugee Agency Vincent Cochetel in a recent statement. “This will undoubtedly increase the risk for those trying to find safety in Europe.”

Thousands of lives are literally at stake. Call on the leaders of the European Union to support a sustained emergency rescue program to aid shipwrecked refugees.


Dear President Juncker,

In just over two weeks the Italian navy came to the rescue of roughly 2,100 refugees stranded at sea. Many were fleeing war in Syria. Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation formally ended in October, 2014 yet if anything the number of refugee ships being abandoned by human traffickers is increasing. Sadly the European Union’s leadership has failed to fully support Italy and other nations bordering the Mediterranean, where the practice has become common.

The International Organization for Migration reported 2014 as the deadliest year for migrants on record. More than 3,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea that year alone. Many have criticized Europe’s failure to  formally address the crisis as an attempt to use “death as deterrence” for refugees considering the perilous journey. As you surely understand these men, women and children are often literally running from death which plagues their war-torn homelands.

I appeal to your conscience to recognize the value of these people’s lives. Please, don’t leave them to die adrift at sea. Partner with other European leaders to support emergency rescue programs for refugees abandoned in the Mediterranean, and help bring this crisis to an end.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Defense Visual Information Center via Wikimedia Commons

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