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UN agencies call for 'urgent, decisive' steps after Mediterranean migrant boat disaster

June 16, 2023 at 5:57 pm

Logo photo of the Organisation for Migration (IOM) [@IOM_Libya/Twitter]

“Urgent and further decisive” action is needed to prevent deaths at sea, the UN agencies for migration and refugees said, Friday, after a migrant boat disaster off Greece, Anadolu Agency reports.

“It is clear, that the current approach to the Mediterranean is unworkable. Year after year, it continues to be the most dangerous migration route in the world, with the highest fatality rate,” said Federico Soda, Emergencies Director at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Dozens of migrants died off south-western Greece when a boat reportedly carrying up to 700 passengers, including women and children, sank early on Wednesday.

The boat was reportedly in distress since Tuesday morning, the IOM and refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a joint statement. “The duty to rescue people in distress at sea without delay is a fundamental rule of international maritime law.”

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Soda underlined the need for cooperation among countries to address gaps in proactive search and rescue, quick disembarkation and safe regular pathways.

“These collective efforts should have the human rights of migrants and saving lives at the centre of any response,” he added.

In the joint statement, the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, said the EU “must put safety and solidarity at the heart of its action in the Mediterranean”.

“In view of the increased movements of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean, collective efforts, including greater coordination between all Mediterranean States, solidarity and responsibility-sharing, as reflected in the EU’s Pact on Migration and Asylum are essential to save lives,” Triggs said.

She said this included setting up a regional disembarkation and redistribution mechanism for people who arrive by sea.

Noting that 400-750 people were believed to be aboard the boat that sank on Wednesday, the agencies said; so far, 104 people have been rescued and 78 bodies recovered, while hundreds remain missing and feared dead.

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