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British protests demand solution to migrant crisis

Activists in England staged multiple demonstrations over the last week protesting the recent death of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the response by European governments to the growing migrant crisis.

The protests come after more than 800 people fleeing Africa through Libya drowned in the Mediterranean Sea on April 19. A week before that, a shipwreck ended in the deaths of about 400 people simply looking for better lives in Europe.

“Until now, the British government’s response has been shameful, but finally foreign ministers seem to be waking up to the need to act,” Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director, told the Guardian. “EU governments must now urgently turn their rhetoric into action to stop more people drowning on their way to Europe.”

Amnesty staged one of the more attention-grabbing protests when they lined up 200 black body bags on the shore of Brighton beach on April 22. Alongside the body bags, some of which were occupied by protesters, lay a banner that said #DontLetThemDrown and a funeral wreath.

According to the United Nations, in 2014, about 170,000 migrants entered Europe through Italy after taking the treacherous trip across the Mediterranean. Many of the migrants are believed to come from war-torn areas like Syria and sub-Saharan African countries. According to the International Organization for Migration, 3,279 people died while making that same trip last year.

Deaths have increased substantially this year — with about 1,600 dying since January, over 30 times the number of people who died in the same period last year.

On April 23, in a protest organized by the London Black Revs, hundreds of people participated in a die-in outside of Parliament in London. The group, protesting under the hashtag #MigrantLivesMatter, chanted, blocked traffic for several hours, and held daffodils in their hands as they lay on the concrete. They also demanded that European governments make it easier for migrants to safely seek refuge and ensure that no one else dies in the Mediterranean Sea.

Dozens of protesters also gathered outside the European Commission’s office in London on April 25 to denounce the way European governments have handled the migrant crisis. The protest, organized by the Movement Against Xenophobia and supported by groups like Stop the War Coalition and Stand Up To Racism, demanded that European governments begin search-and-rescue programs in the Mediterranean Sea to prevent more deaths from happening, a move the British and German governments have been reluctant to do.

The European Union held a summit in Brussels on April 23 to discuss possible solutions to the migrant crisis. During the summit, leaders pledged to increase spending on search-and-rescue missions.