BERLIN, April 3 (Xinhua) -- German and international civil society organizations on Wednesday called on Chancellor Angela Merkel in an open letter to take action in light of the number of refugee deaths in the Mediterranean.
"We are shocked by the current European policy, which is increasingly based on isolation and deterrence - and in doing so is accepting thousands of deaths," read the open letter.
Signatories included more than 250 German and international refugee and human rights organizations, sea rescue organizations, churches, trade unions and youth organizations.
The civil society alliance recalled that the duty to rescue people at sea was enshrined in international law and that the right to life was non-negotiable.
The NGO alliance called for an equal distribution of refugees among European countries as well as for cities and municipalities to be allowed to voluntarily accept additional refugees.
Germany had long argued that European Union (EU) member states such as Italy, which were particularly affected by the migration crisis, "must not be left alone," government spokesperson Steffen Seibert noted.
The German government has continuously emphasized the importance of joint European and international cooperation efforts in responding to the refugee crisis. Seibert recently said that Merkel was calling for everyone involved to "live up to their humanitarian responsibility".
The NGO alliance on Wednesday reiterated that Merkel, "who at a critical moment, took a decision to act in a truly European way", should work to ensure that Europe's refugee policy is human rights-based and founded on solidarity.
The letter emphasized that the lack of rule of law provisions in southern Mediterranean states meant that "only the EU can provide a safe haven for the time being". The NGOs specifically ruled out returning rescued persons to Libya because of its "devastating human rights situation."
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 311 refugees have died in the Mediterranean this year. The United Nations (UN) noted that crossing the Mediterranean Sea became even more life-threatening for migrants in 2018.
Last year, an average of six people lost their lives every day crossing the Mediterranean, which the UN refugee organization (UNHCR) suggested was due to restrictions on search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.