[JURIST] A British warship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea launched a mission on Sunday to rescue over 500 migrants stranded at sea, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) [official website] said in a statement. A Royal Navy helicopter has found four migrant vessels in need of assistance so far. It was also reported by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) [official website] and the Italian coastguard that on Saturday over 2,000 migrants were rescued from five wooden boats in the Mediterranean and there have been reports of seven or more similar boats still currently out at sea. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon [official profile] visited [MoD report] the ship, the HMS Bulwark, on Sunday. During his visit, he praised the Navy’s efforts in the search and rescue operation which has by itself rescued over 2,700 migrants. Mr. Fallon said, “HMS Bulwark continues to play a vital role saving lives at sea and I want to thank them for their unwavering efforts… However, we cannot simply deal with the symptoms of this problem; we must go after the route cause and the trafficking gangs behind it who are making money out of human misery.”
Refuges from the conflicts in the Africa and the Middle East have generated a tremendous humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean with hundreds of deaths in recent months. In April top UN human rights officials and the International Organization for Migration issued a joint statement [JURIST report] calling on the EU to create a new rescue operation program for migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean and to commit to greater receipt of refugees. Also in April UN rights experts warned [JURIST report] the EU that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. In February a Spanish court accused 16 civil guards [JURIST report] of using excessive force against 15 sub-Saharan immigrants who drowned attempting to swim around a seawall between Ceuta and Morocco last February.