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This is not the first time the tiny island of Lampedusa has had to bury the dead of other nations. Frequently brushed under the carpet by European Union leaders, Lampedusa, the island gateway for travellers from Africa, has had another wave of immigrant deaths on its shores.  Whilst upsetting and unnecessary, the latest tragedies have reinvigorated debate on the state of immigration and the rights of asylum seekers on the continent. Amnesty International has previously carried out targeted campaigns regarding the appalling state of camps on the island. Since the beginning of this year, Italy has received a record number of irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers – at 79109 and counting.

This loss of human life surrounded by media buzz will hopefully generate fresh funding to ease the strain on Lampedusa which will have to support the huge influx now expected from Syria. As the Union struggles to cope with debt, recession and the rise of right wing parties, one remains skeptical as to how long debate for reform will remain on the table.

The European Union has a duty to guard the safety and security of individuals who have landed inside its borders. Not everyone who arrives on these boats wishes to claim refugee or asylum seeker status and therefore time lags exist in processing individuals.  These individuals have to live indefinitely in the island’s camps as many lack documentation preventing their deportation or documents to support their right to exist as refugees.

Open borders are a huge worry for those who live and pay tax in the EU, whilst free movement has its benefits, the lack of checks when crossing borders is astonishing in Western Europe (having personal experience) except for Britain. Not only do open borders heighten internal risk, but are potentially a pull factor to those travelling to Lampedusa. It is up to law makers and those in power to dull both push and pull factors for risky immigration.

Since the disaster, the sight has been visited by the EC’s Jose Manuel and the Italian PM which has done little but provided them with a photo opportunity thus far. This is a true embarrassment to the EU and the only way to prevent the death of innocents and improve the lives of citizens fleeing their homes is for international governments and NGOs to work together to create positive, real change. For the moment, the most realistic option is for citizens of the European Union to push for the introduction of new policy within its borders.

Noora Ismail

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