Coordinated search and rescue mechanisms and expansion of safer and regular pathways for migration and asylum needed
ROME – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UNICEF express their deepest condolences for the loss of dozens of lives following another deadly shipwreck that occurred between Thursday 3 and Friday 4 August in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the testimonies of four survivors – an unaccompanied 13-year-old child, a woman and two men – they were rescued by a merchant ship and brought to safety in Lampedusa today by the Italian Coast Guard. The survivors reported that 41 people remain missing, including three children.
The iron barge, which left from Sfax, Tunisia, is reported to have capsized during navigation. Dangerous weather conditions make crossings in iron barges particularly perilous for navigation, highlighting smugglers’ total disregard for the lives of migrants and refugees making these journeys. Only a few days ago, a pregnant mother and a child lost their lives off Lampedusa.
Today’s numbers add to the growing death toll of shipwrecks in the Central Mediterranean. According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, more than 1,800 people have already been reported dead and missing along the route this year. The Central Mediterranean is one of the most active and most dangerous migration routes globally, with more than 75 per cent of the victims in the Mediterranean over the past ten years having been recorded in the Central Mediterranean.
The three UN organizations reiterate the need for coordinated search and rescue mechanisms and continue to call on States to increase resources and capacities to effectively meet their responsibilities.
IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF are present in Lampedusa to support the authorities in both the disembarkation and initial reception phases – to ensure that people seeking international protection can apply for it and that those with special needs are promptly identified – and are also supporting transfers. The three agencies renew their call for wider access to safe and regular pathways for migration and asylum in the European Union, to prevent people from having to resort to dangerous journeys in search of safety and protection.
Related story from Syrian brothers Thamer and Thayer (2014): Haunted by a sinking ship