IN RECENT MONTHS, more people have drowned in the Mediterranean than at any other time since battleships were sunk in its waters during World War II. Migrants are fleeing repression, war and chaos, or seeking a better life than the hardship of their homelands. They come from all over Africa and beyond – thousands of Syrian refugees are the largest group – where repression and poverty have forced many to try to escape and risk the dangerous sea journey to Europe. This year almost 30,000 immigrants have reached Italy. But tragically at least 1,800 have died after their boats sank, or after days adrift without food, water or shelter. In one incident on 18 April, about 800 people are thought to have perished when their boat sank, many of them trapped below decks and unable to escape. The scale of immigration is beyond anything Europe has seen before.
These tragic scenes have caused a massive outcry across Europe. Governments are struggling with the rising costs of rescue operations. Ideally, Europe would like the African authorities to take action against the smugglers, but internal instability often means that they have little interest negotiating with the Europeans. New policies are urgently needed.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) held a special session on unsafe mixed migration by sea on 9 June, during which the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) agreed that urgent action is needed to prevent further losses of life at sea. IMO Secretary-General Sekimizu told the MSC that the situation was a true humanitarian crisis that was not sustainable. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the MSC via video message, said this global issue required everyone to work together with a comprehensive approach, which would protect human rights, uphold international law and recognise the benefits of migration.
Meanwhile, as Ban Ki-moon prepares to leave office at the end of 2016, there is already plenty of debate and speculation about the selection criteria that should be used to identify the likely candidates. Diplomat observes proceedings in the run-up to appointing the world’s top diplomat.
Now the 2015 UK General Election is over, at least we know what we’re dealing with: the first majority Conservative government for nearly 20 years. Global business communications experts Brunswick offer a report on where Britain is heading following the General Election. The hot issue of the day is the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s EU membership. Diplomat looks into the flawed logic of a referendum on EU Membership. And regular columnist Bernard Jenkin MP goes one step further, stating: “the serial breakdown of the UK-EU relationship is something we should seek to resolve finally, by recognising that a different UK-EU relationship would not make us bad Europeans. Good Europeans should be confronting the EU’s failing political and economic model.”
We are also happy to have various editorial contributions from the Ambassadors of Hungary, Mexico and Morocco, along with the High Commissioner for Cyprus.
As always, Diplomat reviews the Credentials of new heads of mission to the Court of St James, this month meeting with the Ambassadors of Austria, Lesotho, Panamá and Uruguay.
In the lifestyle section, Diplomat reports on Hilton’s new offering, the Conrad St James, and dinner at Chutney Mary’s prestigious new location on St James’s Street. Readers with a taste for culture will find valuable advice in our book and arts reviews, including information on the summer opening at Buckingham Palace, allowing visitors to admire the Royal Collection of paintings.