(AA) – European Union immigration policy cannot continue as it is, Austria’s president has said.
Campaign groups held a protest on Monday in front of the Austrian Interior Ministry building in Vienna, calling for “an end to the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean.”
Around 5,000 people, including President Heinz Fischer, politicians and NGO leaders attended the protest to draw attention to migrant boat disasters.
On Sunday, a boat carrying 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on its way to Italy from Libya. Officials believe most of the people on board drowned.
During the demonstration, President Fischer stressed that the “EU’s current immigration policy cannot be sustainable in this way.”
“We cannot continue like this, we can’t accept that hundreds of people die when trying to cross the sea to Europe,” he added.
Amnesty International criticized European governments on Monday for not having adequately replaced the Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation and called for a new multi-national maritime operation to be put in place within days.
“Refugees and migrants have been drowning off the coast of Libya at a rate of around 100 a week since the beginning of the year,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia director, said in a statement.
“This is a humanitarian crisis that needs an immediate and concerted European response, not more hand-wringing and denial.”
Up to 1,600 people are believed to have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, the organization claimed.
Dalhuisen said that the EU should not accept that hundreds of people die when trying to cross the sea to Europe.
Monday’s protestors commemorated the victims of the latest tragedy, lighting candles lit in memory of the dead.