Italy boat: UNHCR urges disembarkation on humanitarian grounds

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is increasingly concerned about the situation surrounding a boat which has been moored off the coast of Sicily for over a week now. The boat, chartered by the German NGO Cap Anamur, has 37 people on board who were apparently rescued at sea in the southern Mediterranean on 20 June.

The circumstances surrounding this rescue at sea, including the subsequent actions of the boat and Cap Anamur, are far from clear. As a result, it is difficult to determine at this point precisely which state has responsibility for the 37 rescued people.

Nevertheless, UNHCR feels strongly that the rescued people should be disembarked as soon as possible on humanitarian grounds. The current impasse should not be allowed to drag out any longer while controversies surrounding the actions of Cap Anamur and the determination of which state is responsible are resolved, since unravelling all these issues is likely to be a long and complicated process.

Failure to disembark the group of 37 will simply add to the hardship they have already suffered, and UNHCR is concerned that some of those on board may be refugees or otherwise in need of international protection.

UNHCR has been in contact with the Italian authorities, and with all the other actors concerned, and is offering its expertise to help find a satisfactory solution to this situation.