June 1, 2015 (Ottawa)— Nobel peace laureates Jody Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leymah Ghobwee, Mairead Maguire, and Shirin Ebadi are calling on European Union officials and member states to do all in their power to provide refugees fleeing conflict-torn countries—including Syria—protection and safe passage to Europe, and asylum in European countries.
Earlier this month, foreign and defense ministers agreed to use military force to disable or sink smugglers’ vessels in order to break up their trafficking networks.
The Nobel peace laureates say military action is not what is needed – and are instead supporting civil society in Europe calling for a more holistic response to the crisis, with European governments taking responsibility for their how their own foreign policies have contributed to the current refugee crisis.
“The most important thing right now is to save lives,” says Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel peace laureate from Iran who won the prize in 2004 for her work to defend the rights of women, children and political prisoners. “Bombing boats won’t stem the tide of human despair and desperation.”
The Nobel peace laureates expressed their deepest sadness at the drowning of about 700 refugees in April– including women and children – seeking refuge in Europe. The refugees were travelling by ship across the Mediterranean Sea when it capsized 70 kilometres off the coast of Libya. Days earlier a vessel carrying refugees also capsized, resulting in about 400 deaths. In both cases, the refugees were fleeing escalating war and violence in their countries.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that migrants who have gone missing, or who are known to have died, while crossing the Mediterranean numbered 1,840 people so far this year. That compared with 425 people during the same period last year.
“Policies of some Western governments to enter into war and support interventions have ravaged some countries,” says Mairead Maguire, a Nobel peace laureate who won the prize in 1977 for her role in ending the conflict in Northern Ireland. “It is time to learn the lessons of history, that militarism and war do not solve problems but make situations much worse. The international community must recognize their role in the destruction and destabilization of countries such as Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. We now have a moral and ethical responsibility to provide assistance to refugees who are the victims of their foreign policies, and should immediately focus on the rebuilding of countries devastated and divided by war and invasions.”
For more information, please contact:
Rachel Vincent, Director of Media & Communications
Nobel Women’s Initiative
Phone +1 613-569-8400 ext.113