MEPs voted in favour of a Green initiative on Thursday calling on EU governments to stop criminalising humanitarian assistance for desperate refugees. The vote comes in the wake of increasing instances of criminalising those who provide aid and support to migrants and refugees. In Malta this week the government has detained a humanitarian vessel that rescues boat migrants off the coast of Libya, where two shipwrecks have claimed the lives of as many as 200 people in recent days.
Before the vote, Green MEPs recorded a message urging their colleague to back the motion.
The UK’s three Green MEPs welcomed the vote in the European Parliament. Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London and the Party's Migration Spokesperson said:
“Malta is just the latest example of EU governments putting their own domestic political agendas above saving lives. That’s why I am delighted that the European Parliament has sent out a strong message calling on the European Commission and EU Member States to stop criminalising those who provide humanitarian assistance to people in desperate and life-threatening situations. We can, and must, do better.”
One crew member on the Sea Watcher 3 rescue boat 'held against its will' in Malta is a Brighton resident. Keith Taylor, the Green Party MEP for the South East, added:
“This is an important victory that sends a strong message: these people have put their lives on the line to save others, they are heroes, not criminals."
"It's also a vote that should prick the conscience of the British government, whose response to the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has been poor, at best."
"We take very few refugees, especially compared to many countries that are far less well-resourced. The least the UK can do is show some moral leadership by ending its opposition to search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and backing this important resolution to end the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance.”
Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, said:
“We must not forget the worrying political agenda underpinning this cruelty. There are actually far fewer refugees trying to get to Europe than in previous years, but unscrupulous far-right politicians are exploiting the prominence of this issue for their own benefit. They are using refugees and migrants as pawns in fermenting hatred and stoking up racism. We must do all we can to resist the creeping nationalism that is taking place across Europe.”