The Observer view on Europe’s shameful response to the growing refugee crisis | Observer editorial

The continent’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude represents not only a failure of humanity, but of policy

One in 40. This is the dreadful death rate facing refugees attempting the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy in overloaded rubber dinghies. It has trebled since late 2015, when European search and rescue efforts in the central Mediterranean were much more concerted and coordinated. It’s the shameful product of Europe’s pitiful response to the growing refugee crisis.

Angela Merkel declared: “Wir schaffen das” – “we can do this” – when she flung open Germany’s doors to refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq for six months in 2015. But she failed to take German public opinion with her and her words quickly turned hollow. Other European nations, including Britain, chose to free-ride on Germany’s generosity rather than follow its example. Led by Germany, Europe’s approach to refugees in the last two years has evolved from Merkel’s misplaced optimism in “we can do this” to a shameful “out of sight, out of mind”.

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