Italy - IOM Director General William Lacy Swing today called for urgent international action and intensified cooperation following the arrival of over 5,470 migrants by boat in Sicily over the weekend. Over 50,000 migrants and asylum seekers have now reached Italy from North Africa in 2014.
The most recent rescues included 200 migrants picked up in international waters off Malta by a US naval vessel and another 107 picked up by a Maltese merchant ship. During the rescue operations, two migrants reportedly died and three went missing.
While Operation Mare Nostrum – carried out since last October by the Italian Government – has saved thousands of lives, deaths at sea are continuing. Last month, an unknown number of migrants died and 17 bodies were recovered after a shipwreck on May 13th.
“The tragedy of migrants drowning at sea is unfortunately a global phenomenon, not just a Mediterranean emergency,” said Ambassador Swing. “For example, over 60 migrants coming from Somalia and Eritrea died a few days ago while trying to cross the Red Sea to Yemen.”
“Migrants risk their lives because they are desperate and become victims of criminals who take advantage of their desperation. There is an urgent need to increase international cooperation to crack down on traffickers and smugglers, who must be identified and prosecuted," underlines the IOM Director General.
“The unnecessary deaths of these migrants and asylum seekers is an affront to all civilized nations,” said Ambassador Swing. “I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and call for urgent measures to make these tragedies a thing of the past.”
“The international community must develop a more comprehensive approach to protect migrants and uphold human dignity. No single action is enough to address the root causes of these mixed migration flows, but lives will be saved if action is taken now to help both migrants and countries during the entire length of the migratory route,” notes Swing.
To this effect, IOM is calling for a high level debate on mixed migratory flows that could bring together countries of destination, of origin and transit and all concerned actors and partners along the Mediterranean routes to Europe.
“We need to urgently look at a comprehensive range of actions that we can take together to prevent further loss of life. These include the enhancement of legal avenues for migrants seeking better prospects in Europe and the establishment of various mechanisms and measures in countries of transit in north Africa to provide migrants and asylum seekers in need of protection with opportunities to receive legal counselling,” said Mr. Swing.
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Flavio Di Giacomo