Refugees2016 was the deadliest on record for refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean. More than 5,000 migrants died according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an average of fourteen people every day. Most of these were travelling the central Mediterranean route.

On Tuesday 9 May 2017, as many as 250 migrants were believed to have drowned when two refugee boats sunk in the Mediterranean. This latest disaster pushes the death toll up to a record 1,300 in 2017 so far.

The Lampedusa tragedy in 2013 was met with an outpouring of sympathy and grief across Europe. Since then, however, the numbers of dead have grown so overwhelming that it’s become difficult to process. Sympathy has turned to hostility, particular as the migrant flows include a mixture of people fleeing conflict or persecution (for example refugees from Somalia and Eritrea) and economic migrants.

European media has also focused on the decline in asylum seekers across the continent after the influx of 2015. According to EU statistics, the number of first time asylum applicants in the 28 member states of the EU decreased by 15% in the third quarter of 2016 compared to the same quarter of 2015.

In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis will be on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

This week, we focus on discussions in Berlin, the capital of Germany. On 24 April 2017, Debating Europe hosted an event with Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance.

The event, which took place in Berlin, brought together a panel including Julia Black, Project Coordinator for the International Organization for Migration (IOM); Başak Çalı, Professor of International Law at the Hertie School of Governance; Laurent Muschel, Director for Migration and Protection in Directorate-General for Home Affairs, European Commission; Tankred Stöbe, a member of the International Board of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and Ralph Wilde from the Faculty of Laws at University College London (UCL) and a member of the UCL Migration Research Unit.

Together with students and Berliners, they discussed why has the issue of deadly crossings has faded from the European public agenda. Are people becoming indifferent to migrant deaths? Has this “normalisation” led to a policy impasse? You can see the full video from the event below:

Are Europeans becoming indifferent to migrant deaths? Why has the issue of deadly crossings faded from the European public agenda? Has this “normalisation” led to a policy impasse? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Brainbitch
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

142 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Oli Lau

    Are you indifferent to the European homeless people? to the various tragedies that you can see around the world, of course not.

    Are we responsible? No.

    If you want to act, you do it with your own money, you dont take it from someone is hard earned money to give it to somebody else and call it “solidarity”.

    Otherwise you generate xenophoby, this is precisely what european governments are doing. They are feeding the extreme rights.

  2. avatar
    Bobi Dochev

    Deaths? What deaths?! Europeans become indifferent to your propaganda – that’s all! The picture shows a “drowning one” in front and “God who is walking on water” – it is hilarious (and sad) what “show you ofer to the Europeans! On top of that European Border and Coast Guard Agency offer them a free ride and “cut” the smugglers expenses for transportation. Which is pretty much a crime!

  3. avatar
    Rui Ferreira

    If you whant to do something about , is to dont let those ships start the trip… that is saving people…

  4. avatar
    Stamatis Paouris

    You are puppets of yous boss…………
    We dont want them even if you by goverments .. media .m politician..etc..
    We have our problem to risolve

  5. avatar
    James Robinson

    No because everyone has realised they are been taken for a ride and turning Europe into the same as the shit holes the refugees came from. How long has france been under martial law now? How many islamic murders and terrorist attacks have taken place since the migration?

  6. avatar
    Luca Del Vecchio

    We are working as Taxi drivers for human traffickers, we should stop every Ships and create refugees Camps there

    • avatar
      Sérgio Parreira

      USA is the root of all evil … everytime someone comits a crime its USA to blame … where have I heard that before???

  7. avatar
    Małgorzata Kołczykowska

    Czy ktoś posumował ilość ZAMORDOWANYCH przez tzw imigrantów/armi islamskiej Europejczyków? dlatego…szczerze…jakoś ich nie żałuję

    • avatar
      Antonios Forlidas

      It is because you came out of the soviet cage 2O years ago and you do not know anything about Democracy and respect to human values and human dignity. A few years ago you were the ones who were escaping like rabbits to the West, and now you do not regret for the desperate refugees that your country among all the others destroyed the countries where they are coming from.

    • avatar
      Michal Sell

      even though i am Polish you are absolutely right. in this case i feel ashamed to be polish

    • avatar
      Michal Sell

      a szczerze powiem ze wstydze sie Pani komentarza. ludzie uciekaja od wojny, zmian klimatycznych, suszy i biedy. jeszcze niedawno Polacy robili to samo jadac na zachod a pani jedyne o czym mysli to o terroryzmie, ktory prawdopodobnie nie ma nic wspolnego z tymi ludzmi. wstyd!!

    • avatar
      Paweł Masej

      Antonios Forlidas, oh come on… They are not humans… they don’t respect Europeans and our values they want to destroy them. u talking about dignity? about stoning women by muslims? intolerant, homophobia, pressure and so on? this is all muslims doing… fuck them. You brainwashed by political correctness and you OWN country will be muslim soon.

    • avatar
      Paweł Masej

      Michal Sell, wstydź się lepiej swojej głupoty…

  8. avatar
    Medman Vita

    Who ever asks this question should be hung…. in the middle 8f an invasion you dont say this shit

  9. avatar
    Carl Holyoake

    No if they choose to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats , in boats that not intended for the purpose . Where are the authorities as any authority that thinks any vessel is unfit to go to sea will in pound the vessel I’m sure if I entered Lybia illegally I would probably be shot by some kind Muslim group

  10. avatar
    Serge Jochheim

    Well!? Indifferent? Wouldn’t call it like this.
    It’s just, that people in Europe start to realize that dropping Bombs illegaly in middle east and africa is the major problem.

    • avatar
      Sérgio Parreira

      Droping bombs ilegally ??? Says who???

      The problem is dictators abusing their countries population … and worse … lame leaders missmanaging their countries like ruanda sudan or the uk

    • avatar
      Martin Green

      UK isn’t in Africa Sérgio Parreira
      Mind Portugal is happy to let the Brazilians in eh or are they being bombed to

    • avatar
      Serge Jochheim

      ????? Oh yes!? Funny guy…
      Turn it this way! Reading papers from the persons who make the real global mismanagement is not the best way to get your info.?

    • avatar
      Serge Jochheim

      😂😂😂😂😂 Oh yes!? Funny guy…
      Turn it this way! Reading papers from the persons who make the real global mismanagement is not the best way to get your info.😜

    • avatar
      Martin Green

      Best ask merkel and the eu about open borders

    • avatar
      Martin Green

      Mind Germany has dropped a few bombs in its time eu Serge Jochheim

    • avatar
      Serge Jochheim

      I know, I know. Not to forgot the trade “agreement” imposed to Africa from the EU.

    • avatar
      Jennie Field

      Martin 1 Million arrived in Greece last year Then they closed the borders Angela Merkel invited then Think there are over 160 thousand wanting to get out of Greece Still they keep arriving

    • avatar
      Arron Karl Hughes

      German bloke lecturing about bomb dropping. Fuck right off mate lol.

  11. avatar

    This crisis was created by politicians for politicians….leave ordinary hard working people out of it! You will blame us for this eventually? Help is needed but dont wash your hands by saying this….

  12. avatar

    I think there are parallel issues which people are preoccupied with like the rise of extremism which threatens European cohesion.The speed of globalization & its effects of many people’s basic security is a huge issue .In equality within the world where nothing appears to be done to stop a small group of individuals concentrate much of the wealth .Juncker at the head of Europe has actually contributed towards creating ways of avoiding taxation of these corporations & individuals.
    Given jobs ,homes primarily then of course people will have compassion but unfortunately they don’t & whilst feeling vulnerable only see refugees as a factor to worsen their situations.
    Almost the fact of asking the question suggests a naievity & blindness to what the reality is for many people in Europe ? Isn’t it obvious why people might turn off ? Morally wrong & sad but The EU needs to wake up & listen & reform

  13. avatar
    Γιάννης Γιαννάκης

    Wtf, becoming indifferent? More than 40,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean the last 30 years and you use the verb “become indifferent”. THEY FUCKING LOVE IT, if they didn’t love it, they would do something about it.

  14. avatar
    Catriona Macfarlane

    The situation is out of control… yes l am indifferent….. stop trying to put the onus on the hard working citizens of Europe

  15. avatar
    Robert Minassian

    Masters of their own destiny…. Indiferent as long as they dont impose in any way on my people…. otherwise angry… very angry.

  16. avatar
    Erika Belair

    As long as european involvement in armed conflict such as Syria ,Afghanistan and where ever else is not stopped the refugees will keep coming….what influence does a european civilian voter have on this ???…Not indifferent ,no ….but how to stop the war machine and prepare the ground for people to go back home…also why not extend economical help etc to African countries and allow people to make a living there…

    • avatar
      Sérgio Parreira

      Extend what if theres already too much help from the uda and eu and china and jspan australia nz canada ???

      Stop helping them … make them responsible for their own destiny like every left wing demagogue likes to acuse europe of doing…

    • avatar
      Valeria Tancredi

      Oh yes let’s make them responsible of their own destinity, but wait there is still a lot to rob out of them so finish wasting their country first.

  17. avatar
    Judith Loureiro

    they are becoming over loaded with people they do not have the capacity to help, and whose arrival, and resulting care negatively impacts on the citizens and economies of the countries they arrive in……thousands per day——every day…..what country can effectively deal with this?

  18. avatar
    Maija Sala Tsegai

    It is possible that some Europeans do become/ are indifferent but there are a lot of us who understand the plight of the refugees and feel solidarity irrespective of their causes of migration.

  19. avatar
    Magdalene Papoulia

    Indifferent?? Is that an accusation? We people want our peace. We cannot find it by ourselves .It is up to Leaders. When they get us back to normal, we will be interested in other people’s lives as we did traditionally as Hemlines.

  20. avatar

    Just like anything else that’s in the news every day…

    No one is obliged to get on these boats and try illegal entry by the way. People do it of their own free will and in full knowledge of the dangers.

  21. avatar
    Enric Mestres Girbal

    We are not indifferent but they choose to risk their lives….and the culprits are the EU politiciens promissing them the Paradise.

  22. avatar
    David Mcphail

    Europe n’a pas besoin de migrant…les vrais réfugies sont la bienvenue bien entendu..!

  23. avatar
    Swami Dhyan Sumeru

    those deaths were the direct ressult of the eu nato war machine which bombed these people into the sea by destroying their lives and killing their families

    • avatar
      Wendy Harris

      Religious tribalism creates wars which are then joined by other countries with vested interests, particularly in oil supply. Maybe when Muslims cease arguing about the best way to worship their god they will stop destabilizing their countries and embrace the stability of democracy.

  24. avatar
    Bruno Wood

    Every european is ready to help! wiith money, resources, work!!!

    But we are not ready to put our safety, work, society, way of life at risk by allowing mass migration and cultural shocks.

    They also dont liek to travel far into complitly diferent cultures. They want to be helped where they grew up and have famiiles and friends.

    • avatar
      Ante Radnić

      No, they just want yout money.

    • avatar
      Bruno Wood

      Ante Radnić We explored them for centuries, maybe they are entitled.

    • avatar
      Bruno Wood

      Lets also not forget how many of them died in ridiculous european “world” wars.

    • avatar
      Bruno Wood

      To share technologist.. resources.. and some of our money is the very least we can do. After wall Europeans also run like crazy into Africa when war broke out.

      No one can say if it will not happens again. Would be nice to have some friends on the other side of the water.

  25. avatar
    Basilis Augerinopoulos

    Enough …. I wish them all to drunk along with the bastards which are helping them …. Enough ….we want our land back …..

  26. avatar
    Edita Buržinskaitė

    FFS stop the wholesale import of Muslim males before the Europeans themselves become refugees from their own countries. This is beyond ridiculous and the primary cause for the emergence of the “far right”.

  27. avatar
    Gianfranco Gattini

    nobody was terrified when for centuries the northafrican pirates raped and kidnapped girls from sicily and calabria selling them naked on the slave market of Tunis !

  28. avatar
    catherine benning

    Are Europeans becoming indifferent to migrant deaths?

    No, not becoming, they already are indifferent. Just as those who come are indifferent to the abuse they lay at the foot of their hosts.

  29. avatar
    Arron Karl Hughes

    Not Europes problem. We should cut ties with the middle east and let them deal with their own shit. Its called ‘Standing on your own two feet’

  30. avatar
    Arthur Janik

    Do you think that accepting them will solve problem??? How many we must accept 1mln 2 maybe 100mln of people??? It doesnt metter, becouse in next year will born 80mln of new people, which will live in poverty. Imigrants must stay in own countries and bring changes in their goverments, only that will solve problem!!!! We have 3 mld. of people who are living in poverty.

  31. avatar
    Andrew Potts

    It is the CEOs of various NGOs, government officials, EU and UN officials. The members of the Obama administration that plunged Syria and Libya into civil war. Angela Merkel’s invitation her ministers who supported.her. It’s the established media who almost religiously promote migration. It’s the Liberal political parties that encourage mass migration and silence concerns. It’s the EU who offer no reasoned end point. Your question should not be about indifference but about the listed above feeling guilty for the dead children in sea because that’s the result of their vanity project.

  32. avatar
    Daniel Pluskota

    its become something normal. When something cruel is happening continuously for too long it is the new standard :(

  33. avatar
    Luísa Cunha Ventura Gagean

    Of course not. But this is a great problem for Europe. People will come to Europe, even without, war . They are looking for a better life. But we dont have enough to give. They must find a way to live in their countries. Many of them are muslims and they should go to rich countries like Saudi Arabia, united emirates and so on.

  34. avatar
    George Ferentinos

    Saudi arabia and other reach muslim countries do have the money, infrastucture, and the proper social envirement to host the refugies coming from syria and othe countries suffered by war!!

  35. avatar
    Harris Manteniotes

    Why they dont flee to Rich muslim countries? why Christian Europe should take care of them, while Christians are being slaughtered by Muslims in Middle East,and Africa alike?? Even so, the real refugees should be protected, but all of the illegal immigrants (illegal is the biggest portion of them, according to statistics by the Greek Coastguard and the UN,) that seek the EU benefits for (real) refygees should be deported, now!!!!

  36. avatar
    Carol Chapman

    Only because nothing is being done AT SOURCE. Why use our Navy to pick them up? Why not patrol the waters where they are embarking and put them back ashore?

    • avatar
      Valeria Tancredi

      Because those waters belong to a sovereign country and you cannot act like in your home?

  37. avatar
    Nikos Karitinos

    They are deliberate actions not accidents , them tragedies are executed on demand in order create political pressure thus keeping the borders open, the traffic going and the pockets of the chain of shame full (slave boats operators – NGO- refugee funds – bureaucracy )

  38. avatar
    Jacek Veltze

    Why aren’t the arabic countries which are besides concerned? Nor Israel who got their land unlawful over Palestine? Why is nobody concerned with Palestine and its’ poor children, women and men? World wake the fuck up!

  39. avatar
    Terry Burrows

    The FIRST boat to cross the Med should have been sent back. Keep rescuing them, they will keep coming and the people traffickers will continue to line their pockets!!!

  40. avatar
    Ferre Jaime

    Quem e que os chamou para a europa?! A merkel, nao foi? Quem e que os recebe de bracos abertos, lhes paga tudo e deixa cometer crimes impunemente? Quem e que abriu a emigracao?! HAAAAA nao esta aberta, nao ha emprego, alias, ha enorme desemprego na europa! Que governo anda a pedir dinheiro e a vender o pais, para financiar pretensos emigrantes? Entao porque essa gente se mete a caminho, e paga por 1 lugar numa qualquer meda flutuante? Europeus estao muito mais sensibilizados com a perda de qualidade de vida, criminalidade e massacres cometidos por esses pretensos emigrantes.

  41. avatar
    Anthony Hall

    Sorry, but it is about bloody time. Those whinging liberal softies have held the stage for far too long !

  42. avatar
    Maurizio Flores Felis

    No we have become indifferent to wars which produce the migrants and refugees in the first place and the reason is that the wars are inflicted by the US in the name of a democracy that has yet to be seen even in the US. Capitalism has failed over and over again how about giving democratic socialism a chance ?

  43. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    I am not anti-immigrant more and more we are a European society Finally there is a less but better scenario Less Europe plus leftover Europe is best done more efficiently as economists say

  44. avatar
    Carlos David

    Estas embarcaciones neumáticas son las Zodiacs militares de la OTAN, que están siendo usadas en el traslado de subsaharianos hacia Europa. Se las hacen llegar a través de la ONG “No Borders”, un grupo anarquista europeo conocido entre otras cosas por sus acciones de apoyo a los inmigrantes ilegales fomentando también la entrada libre y ahora el traslado de éstos hacia Europa.
    Actualmente los gobiernos de la UE aumentaron la apuesta y son mucho más explícitos que antes cuando aún se preocupaban en fingir políticas para prevenir la inmigración masiva de indocumentados, ya que ahora están enviando a las armadas de Italia y España directamente a las costas africanas a buscar a esos inmigrantes apenas se echan a la mar y trasladarlos a Europa. Antes en los siglos XVIII y XIX esto mismo se hacía cazando a los africanos y llevándoles contra su voluntad a otros continentes, ahora la los africanos se ofrecen voluntariamente a esta neo esclavitud camuflada entre florituras y adornos, con grilletes invisibles pero igual de maliciosa. Claro que en estos tiempos, este tráfico de inmigrantes no se lleva a cabo únicamente con el fin de lucrar con ese negocio, ofreciendo mano de obra barata a las empresas lo que traducido al lenguaje del sentido común es exactamente la esclavitud contemporánea, sino que también y sobre todo con la intención además reconocida, de desintegrar a los Pueblos de Europa y sus culturas mediante la inserción masiva y forzada de miles de inmigrantes totalmente ajenos y extraños a este continente, con el fin de destruir la identidad nacional con nuevas generaciones de euroafricanos y euromusulmanes; Crear sociedades sin sentimiento nacional les es indispensable para garantizar la subsistencia de esa Unión Europea donde cada vez se desdibujan más las fronteras y las Naciones, y preparar así al viejo continente para ser sin duda la semilla de un futuro gobierno mundial que solo será aceptado por sociedades multiétnicas y “multiculturales” que no se sientan representadas por las viejas Naciones que les acogieron, y las rechacen como lo hacen ya hoy día, el caldo de cultivo para la destrucción de la civilización tal cual la conocemos ya está instalado.

  45. avatar
    Wendy Harris

    Worse still is that Europe is becoming indifferent to rape and the sexual abuse of women and children. Lock up these animals or immediately deport them. Stop making feeble excuses for them and covering up their crimes.

  46. avatar
    Dark Doomer

    no, personally i’m fine with it, they should’ve stay at home. fuck you if you think we should welcome them.

  47. avatar
    Bradford Playford

    They’ve certainly become immune to causing their deaths in their home countries, it makes sense that they’d care just as little for the consequences of their apathy.

  48. avatar
    Tim Morgan

    It’s not indifferent but sympathy only goes so far when they choose to put themselves in danger stop putting themselves in danger just because they want to live in Europe they are not refugees as Europes own assessments has shown

  49. avatar
    John Linaris

    It’s not that Europeans are getting indifferent to migrant deaths; the fact is that Europeans are stunned with the hypocrisy of their governments! Their governments are among others responsible for the bombardment of Syria and other countries, and consequently responsible for mass migration into Europe. The European governments are responsible for the extreme austerity measures taken in Greece and the thousands of suicides committed there, for which they haven’t shown any sensitivity! They demand from the Greeks to hold on to the refugees and take care of them, but they don’t show any compassion to suffering Greeks! These are not the IDEALS of the European people! These are the tools to Globalization! The modern tyranny!

  50. avatar
    Carole Robinson

    If the B.B.C can talk to the trafficas why can’t the government’s find them ? Stop it before they get on boats, they all have upto date phones designer clothes , all young men , not refugees ,turn the boats back to where they came from

  51. avatar
    João Pedro Meireles

    Totally. The media stopped talking about it. politicians don’t care too. People have too busy lifes to be aware of this.

  52. avatar
    Michael Paraskevas

    Who told them to get into boats? Why isn’t the EU reacting against Turkey? Why should we care about people who don’t care about themselves? In Greece the coastrguard was trying to save a kid and the parents said: Save us we can make new kids. Why should we care about barbarians? I say save kids and let the rest of them drown. Also most of them are not refugees but illegal invaders without any respect for their saviors and with distorted ideas about how Europe will give them free money. Even worse, they just make groups who kill each other or Muslims throw of the boats Christians. Another strange fact is that we get only Muslims and not Christian populations.

  53. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    dovrebbero vergognarsi dinanzi al mondo chi ha creato tutta questa immigrazione. Dovrebbe esserci un processo internazionale per condannarli di crimini contro l’umanità e risarcire i danni che hanno causato

  54. avatar
    Dimitris Georgopoulos

    The NGOs cannot convince anyone any more. You know there is this thing of “enough is enough”. You cannot plea me guilty for people drowning themselves thousands of miles from here, and you cannot keep me responsible for others’ misery. That’s enough. The Non Government Organizations wish to sell their interest in the issue just to justify the subsidies and donations they get. Just watch how many people will answer this comment of mine just cursing because they just do not want to call things with their name.

  55. avatar
    Sarah EsEs

    HELLO. CAN YOU PLEASE CHECK THE recent PUBLICATION OF Mayatham Alashkar on trafic OF organs OF syrian children in turkey and live. Video prove and do something. It z horrible how can you let It happen. Thank you

  56. avatar
    Tim Wilson

    We make things worse by taking them in, in the first place. Now that they are sure that they will be rescued and taken into Europe, they are all risking the trip, including terrorists. They should have been towed back where they came from from day one. Discouraging them from setting out would save many hundreds of lives. Both theirs and the European lives the terrorists take.

  57. avatar
    Stevo the Devo

    Australia had many illegal immigrants (and a few refugees) coming by boat from Indonesia. Many drowned. Then Prime Minister John Howard put in a policy of “turning back the boats”. The boats stopped coming and the drowning deaths stopped. A Labor Government softened the border controls and the drownings started again. The conservatives came back in to power, reinstated the “stop the boats policy and added a policy that no immigrant, refugee of otherwise that came to Australian territory in an illegal boat would ever be considered for settlement in Australia. No more market for people smugglers. No more deaths at sea.

    19/06/2018 Vincent Cochetel, Special Envoy of the UNHCR for the Central Mediterranean, has responded to this comment.

    19/06/2018 Mark Lagon, former US Ambassador-at-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and currently Centennial Fellow and Distinguished Senior Scholar at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, has responded to this comment.

  58. avatar

    Not indifferent but people need facts and figures. I for one, have not gotten any statistics on this, so I strongly doubt the truth of what it claimed.

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