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UNHCR Announced The New Mediterranean Refugee Boat Tragedy May Be Biggest Ever

World Affairs -Humanitarian

Open Eyes Opinion {source: UNHCR}


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UNHCR – New Mediterranean boat tragedy may be biggest ever, urgent action is needed now

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed his shock at the latest boat capsizing on the Mediterranean, and the hundreds of lives reported to have been lost.

As of a short time ago, according to information from the Maltese authorities, only around 50 of the 700 reported to be aboard, had been rescued.

Should these numbers be confirmed, the incident which happened overnight will be the largest loss of life from any incident on the Mediterranean involving refugees and migrants. It follows an incident only last week in which 400 lives were lost. The Lampedusa disaster of October 2013 saw almost 600 lives lost in two separate incidents.

Available information is that the boat overturned shortly before midnight on Saturday, in Libyan waters, some 180 kilometers south of Italy’s Lampedusa. Italian and Maltese naval vessels and merchant ships have been among the approximately 20 vessels, along with several helicopters, that are engaged in the rescue operation being coordinated by the Italian authorities.

UNHCR is currently awaiting confirmation on where the survivors are being taken.

“This disaster confirms how urgent it is to restore a robust rescue-at-sea operation and establish credible legal avenues to reach Europe. Otherwise people seeking safety will continue to perish at sea,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “But it also points to the need for a comprehensive European approach to address the root causes that drive so many people to this tragic end. I hope the EU will rise to the occasion, fully assuming a decisive role to prevent future such tragedies.”

UNHCR has been advocating for an urgent response from the European Union to deal with the challenges faced by the thousands of people risking their lives to find safety in Europe. A comprehensive set of proposals has been shared by UNHCR, including a more robust search-and-rescue operation as well as credible legal avenue to reach safety such as resettlement, humanitarian visas, and enhanced family reunification.

So far in 2015, more than 35,000 asylum seekers and migrants have arrived by boat in southern Europe and if today’s toll is confirmed some 1600 have died. In 2014, around 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean, and 3,500 lives were lost.


Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.

In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 8,600 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons.

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