Latest boat tragedy off Libya adds to rising death toll in Mediterranean
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 8 July 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
A Syrian mother and her two children (ages three and six) are among the latest people to have perished while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya.
The Libyan coast guard informed UNHCR on Monday (7 July) that it had recovered 12 bodies from a boat accident believed to have occurred on Sunday (6 July), including three Syrians, three Eritrean nationals and six other Africans of as yet undetermined nationalities. The boat, which had a capacity of about 200 passengers and may have been carrying many more people, is reported to have capsized off the coast of Tripoli. Search and rescue operations are ongoing and the fate of others who may have been aboard the vessel is unknown.
With this latest tragedy, some 217 people are believed to have drowned off the Libyan coast so far in 2014 while trying to cross the Mediterranean. This in addition to at least another 290 people confirmed dead or missing from boat accidents in the waters off Italy, Turkey and Greece, bringing the death toll in the Mediterranean so far this year to over 500 people.
UNHCR applauds search and rescue operations by government authorities but asks that such operations are further strengthened - particularly in areas with high concentrations of boat crossings. We are also urging States worldwide to look at providing legal alternatives to dangerous sea journeys - such as increased family reunification, speedy resettlement and humanitarian admissions. Governments are additionally being encouraged to resist punitive or deterrent measures including detention for people seeking safety.
Almost 37,000 asylum-seekers and refugees are registered with UNHCR's Tripoli and Benghazi officers, with Syrians making up the largest group (18,655) followed by Eritreans (4,673), Somalis (2,380) and Iraqis (3,105). However, not all asylum-seekers are registered. Many asylum-seekers live in precarious conditions - such as over-crowded accommodations with little legal access to employment and have been affected and further displaced by the current unrest in Libya.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
- In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
- in Tunisia, Dunnapar Fern Tilakamonkul on mobile +216 58 335 123
- In Tunisia, Dalia Al Achi on mobile +216 58 335 118