Medecins Sans Frontieres (better known in the United States as Doctors Without Borders) has ceased its sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. During eight months they rescued over 20,000 people in over 120 operations, although according to the International Organisation for Migration, 3,771 people still died during such crossings in 2015. The mission: trying to cross the sea to Europe from North Africa in order to flee conflicts and poverty in nations like Syria.
Doctors Without Borders substantially helped reduce the number of deaths in such crossings, but have stepped back with the belief that European Union resources in 2016 will be sufficient enough to take over. They are, after all, a medical organization first and foremost, focusing on treatment, and are not as qualified for search and rescue operations as other organizations.
As migrations increased last year, they felt the need to step in and help. However, they expect the EU to take over these duties, and they urged that body to make changes to allow migrants and asylum seekers easier access to Europe.
The main reason people die in these crossing is because they are forced to rely on smugglers and small, overcrowded, and often dangerous boats that aren’t always capable of completing the journey. By allowing more safe, legal options for people to make the journey from North Africa to Europe, the EU can reaffirm its pledge to help refugees, and can reduce the deaths caused by those crossings.
A number of member countries in the EU and innumerable private citizens have stepped up to help out refugees from war-torn Syria and other areas, even after the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut by ISIL with the intention of getting host countries to close their borders. The next step is getting more people to Europe safely. Despite pulling back on rescue operations, Doctors Without Borders has stated that they will stay on standby, in case the EU once again needs their help with the crossings.