Dangerous sea journeys are taking the form of ‘Russian Roulette’, Adrian Edwards, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Head of News and Media, said in highlighting that 479 people have already died or have went missing in the first two months of the year in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Adrian Edwards, in addressing the 22ndAnnual Conference of COPEAM entitled The Mediterranean and the exodus of populations: the role of the media, provided a presentation on the grave risks people are taking in order to find protection and the challenges for the media to effectively communicate with the public on this issue.
“The increase in movements across the Mediterranean to Europe, and the untold human suffering it entails, are cause for enormous concern – as is the pressure this situation is placing on search-and-rescue arrangements, countries of disembarkation and international shipping.”
In March 2015, UNHCR sent a number of concrete proposals to the European Union to deal with the challenges posed by the thousands of refugees and migrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe every year. The proposals are part of UNHCR’s Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative (CMSI), which aims to encourage wide-ranging discussions with the European Commission and among European states and other concerned stakeholders to address the challenges of mixed migration in the Mediterranean Sea and to save lives.
Many of those seeking to reach Europe flee persecution or war, go through a life-threatening journey, crossing deserts and the sea, and very often find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous gangs of smugglers.
Mr Edwards spoke about the challenges that humanitarian organizations such as UNHCR face in communicating refugee tragedies to the general public. “It is our nature as human beings that large numbers and suffering on a mass scale becomes difficult to comprehend – we stop relating to the individuals affected, we find ourselves becoming inured.”
“We seek not just to portray the Mediterranean crossing story through the lens of tragedy, but as a tale of survival, as a tale of actions being taken to help, and ultimately of finding hope again after this ordeal,” Mr Edwards said.