NGOs suspend refugee rescue operations

In the face of threats from the militia-controlled Libyan coast guard, private aid organisations like Doctors Without Borders and Sea Eye have temporarily suspended their missions aimed at rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean. Commentators argue about the extent to which NGO rescue operations influence refugee numbers.

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Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

NGOs are not the real opponents

As long as smugglers are offering to smuggle people to Europe, desperate souls will make the journey, argues the daily Salzburger Nachrichten:

“It is impossible to determine exactly what influence the NGO operations have. ... But the rescue boats are not the decisive factor in the decision to escape. ... The NGOs in the Mediterranean are now warning that they are leaving behind a 'deadly void'. If they are no longer patrolling the Libyan coast, more people will drown, they predict. Anyone who is stranded in Libya will still try to get to Europe if there is any possibility at all. And the people smugglers have proven their ingenuity in finding new opportunities. The only sustainable solution to put an end to the deadly crossings is to combat the people smugglers.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Short-term thinking among refugee rescuers

Die Welt has little sympathy for the NGOs:

“The private rescuers are acting irresponsibly because they are in effect supporting the trade of the people smugglers. ... When it comes to the refugee question, they only think as far as the next boat - while all politicians in government have to keep in mind what this means for a struggling European continent. Anyone in their right mind must realise that the EU and its societies would be torn apart if we opened our doors to everyone with dreams of a better life. ... The activists, on the other hand, want to promise everyone in the boats packed full by the people smugglers that they will be saved and be able to travel to safe European shores. In the short term this saves lives. But anyone who wants to stop the deaths between the Sahara and the Mediterranean needs to make sure that fewer and fewer people opt to embark on the hellish journey to Europe in the first place.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Surrender to the right

The NGO ships that now lie at anchor in the ports symbolise Europe's moral and political bankruptcy, avers La Repubblica:

“We have sat back while the contractors of fear summoned the NGOs to the dock in a bid to gain votes. We have sacrificed them to the [far-right] propaganda of the Lega Nord and Grillo's Movimento 5 Stelle, which vilified them as the taxis of the sea. ... In the end the NGOs have thrown in the towel, as was to be expected. But how did it come to this surrender of civilised values? The cultural background is a political left that has allowed itself to be blanked out, yielding silently and pitifully to the hegemony of the 'nationalist' right.”