I have recently tabled a motion for debate in the Scottish Parliament calling for recognition of the terrible tragedy occurring each week in the Mediterranean sea where hundreds of migrants are packing in to fishing boats in an attempt to start a new life in the EU. More often than not this is ending in a tragic loss of life on an unimaginable scale. I believe it is the responsibility of parliaments and governments across Europe to put pressure on the EU to do more to prevent this tragedy which is why I am pushing for a debate on this issue to be tabled a quickly as possible.
More information about this tragedy and my motion as tabled in the Scottish Parliament can be found in my Central Fife Times column bellow:
Last week I tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament asking for a debate on the issue of thousands of men, women and children dying in the Mediterranean whilst fleeing poverty and conflict in the Middle East and Africa.
That the Parliament expresses its shock at the recent loss of life in the Mediterranean sea where almost 400 migrants attempting to reach the EU are believed to have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya; supports the comments of human rights groups across Europe that have condemned the scrapping of rescue operations in the Mediterranean, which it believes is endangering the lives of thousands of desperate migrants making perilous journeys across the sea; acknowledges the comments of the human rights group, Amnesty International, which stated that “European governments’ on-going negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015”; believes that the decision of the EU to stop funding Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue mission last year in favour of the surveillance patrols currently being carried out by its border agency, Frontex, is a clear example of its dereliction of duty with regard to this matter; notes the evidence given to the European and External Relations Committee by Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, who stated “We are pressing to persuade the European Union that there is an external border that is of common interest and should be managed at a common level, we are pressing other partners to make it a European priority and all political pressure is welcome to create awareness of the scale of the phenomenon”, and believes that it is the duty of all EU nations to work together to tackle this humanitarian crisis, the scale of which it considers is causing widespread concern and disbelief in the Cowdenbeath constituency and in communities across Scotland”.
Since I tabled the motion I have got cross party support so should now be able to have the debate. Tragically another sinking at the weekend saw 670 migrants die. Last year I met the Italian Ambassador to the UK when he came to Parliament and I was struck by his commitment that his country would not ignore the plight of so many vulnerable human beings dying in their thousands. He said every country in the EU had a part to play if we wanted to find a solution to this on going human tragedy.
In the last few weeks I have also been struck by the number of constituents that have raised with me this issue and asked what can we in Scotland do. I am now pushing for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government to take a position and use its influence to change UK policy in this area. The British Government must immediately reverse its opposition to EU search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, as the EU needs to restart the rescue as soon as possible. EU Governments must not turn their backs on those drowning at sea. And we need international action to tackle the traffickers and provide more help in the region to prevent desperate people trying to make the perilous journey in the first place. The Italian Government are asking for EU help. The EU should do the basic, humanitarian thing and rescue those in peril on the sea.
Scotland has a proud record of reaching out and helping those in need no matter where in the world and on this issue we must make our voice heard.