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UNHCR urges members to offer ports to stranded migrants

Syrians swim to safety after travelling on the Mediterranean sea [Tamer Yazar/Twitter]

The UN Refugee Agency on Monday called on Member States to “urgently offer safe ports” to two vessels carrying 49 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean, reports Anadolu Agency.

“UNHCR [The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing to States to urgently offer safe ports and disembarkation to two NGO vessels on the Mediterranean carrying 49 rescued refugees and migrants, including young children,” it said in a statement.

It said 32 people were on board the Sea Watch 3 vessel since December 22, while another 17 were rescued by Sea Eye vessel on December 29.

The UNHCR quoted Vincent Cochetel, the agency’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, as saying:

Decisive leadership is required, in line with fundamental values of humanity and compassion, to offer safe disembarkation and bring the 49 safely to land.

Cochetel also added that negotiations on which member countries will receive them must come “after they are safely ashore”.

The agency also noted that in 2018, over 2,240 people either died or went missing at sea while attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.

It highlighted that NGO’s search and rescue vessels had “critical role” for preventing death toll to increase higher.

On December 28, as the most recent example, a boat shunned by Italy carrying 311 migrants rescued by Spanish NGO Open Arms from off the coast of Libya and docked at a southern Spanish port.

Malta and Italy had previously denied the ship entry, and the boat’s calls to France, Tunisia, and Libya went unanswered.

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