Switzerland - The death of 30 Haitian migrants at sea earlier this week off the Bahamas has triggered renewed concerns about the plight of irregular migrants risking their lives around the world in unseaworthy boats and other life-threatening transport in search of better lives.
“The deaths at sea of these migrants in the Caribbean, and others in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, as well as in the deserts of Mexico and the Sahara, are a wake-up call for the international community to act. We must take urgent measures to ensure that these tragedies become a thing of the past,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.
IOM calls on all actors to address the situation of migrants attempting life-threatening journeys. They include refugees and asylum seekers, people seeking employment and people who may be particularly vulnerable, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied minors.
"The priority is to save lives," says Ambassador Swing. “National authorities must ensure that any people travelling in unsafe conditions are rescued and receive adequate humanitarian assistance, and that traffickers taking advantage of desperate individuals are prosecuted.”
“Based on our understanding of mobility, and our hands-on experience in places of origin, transit and destination, IOM is convinced that the international community needs to develop a more comprehensive approach to protect migrants and uphold human dignity. Governments should recognize that migrants arriving by sea and land are not criminals,” he argues.
IOM is calling for a comprehensive approach to migration management with the understanding that no one action is enough to address the root causes that drive these life-threatening journeys. It proposes concrete actions to be taken to help both migrants and countries of origin, transit and destination with a focus on increased dialogue and cooperation to improve preparedness and national responses for the protection of all migrants, irrespective of their legal status.
IOM also advocates for an increase in activities – such as targeted information campaigns and the establishment of migrant resource centers – to raise awareness among potential migrants in countries of origin and transit of the dangers of trafficking and smuggling. Cooperation between governments to crack down on traffickers and smugglers also needs to be stepped up.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, IOM wants to see more legal migration avenues for migrants seeking better prospects abroad – a move that will remove the need of some migrants to risk their lives at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
“Legal migration undeniably benefits migrants, countries of origin and countries of destination. It is also a key contributor to development in terms of capital and skills transfer. We must therefore work together to manage the process intelligently and humanely for the benefit of all,” says Ambassador Swing.
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