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UNHCR calls on Europe to allow SeaWatch passengers ashore

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UNHCR calls on Europe to allow SeaWatch passengers ashore

20 June 2019
Italy. Rescued refugees and migrants disembark after marathon ordeal
UNHCR staff prepare to meet passengers disembarking the Sea Watch 3 vessel in the Sicilian port of Catania on 31 January 2019.

Eight days since they were rescued by the NGO vessel Sea Watch 3, a group of some 43 people, including three children with no accompanying family, remain stranded at sea and in urgent need of a safe port.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is today, on World Refugee Day, urging European States to call forth their principles of humanity and compassion, and to allow the group to disembark. Ten refugees and migrants were previously evacuated to Lampedusa last weekend on medical grounds.

“Europe played an intrinsic role in creating the legal architecture that underpins modern day international refugee law,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy of the Central Mediterranean. “It is time to invoke that proud history of assisting people fleeing war, violence and persecution, and to allow the rescued passengers to come ashore to safety.”

Rescue at sea is a centuries-old tradition and obligation that does not end with pulling people out of the water. A rescue can only be considered complete once the passengers have reached dry land in a safe port. Broader discussions on which States will host the group should be held once their safety is assured.

UNHCR reiterates that no port in Libya can be considered safe at this time, and that no one rescued on the Mediterranean should be returned there.

Renewed efforts are needed to develop a regional approach for dealing with rescue and disembarkation on the Mediterranean. UNHCR, together with IOM, have made concrete proposals for a way forward that would provide clarity and predictability to shipmasters carrying rescued passengers.


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