Creating new perspectives since 2009

UN migration agency appreciates NGOs' efforts to save lives in Mediterranean

October 2, 2023 at 1:24 pm

Irregular migrants are seen as an operation is carried out by coastguards teams of the Tunisian National Guard against the migrants who want to reach Europe illegally via the Mediterranean Sea, off the city of Sfax in Tunisia on August 12, 2023 [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

The new head of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), on Monday, said that the UN migration agency appreciates NGOs’ efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean, Anadolu Agency reports.

“I and the organisation appreciate the work of anyone who is working to support migrants who are in distress and to save lives,” IOM Director-General, Amy Pope, said in response to Anadolu’s question on German NGOs’ efforts off the coast of Italy to save migrants.

“And, ultimately, while we do not have a mandate as an organisation, like our colleagues in some other UN organisations, we all share as our mandate on the protection and preservation of human life,” she told a news conference in Geneva, where she was introduced as the first female chief of the IOM.

“We don’t think we’re the only ones who can or should be doing it, so we certainly appreciate the work of anyone protecting the lives of people on the move,” she added.

READ: Migrant boat washes ashore in Israel, fate of passengers unknown

Pope said she does “not know the specific information” on what the Italian Coast Guard’s position is, but added: “I think all of our member states share the same commitment to human life and as an organisation that is for migration, that is part of the UN system, is our attempt to make sure that we are speaking for and on behalf of people, wherever they are, whoever they are, who are extremely vulnerable and who are on the move.”

Separately, she voiced concern over the normalisation of deaths in the Mediterranean.

Our biggest concern is that the deaths in the Mediterranean have been normalised and that people take for granted that this is just a cost of human movement

the IOM chief said. “And our first concern is changing the expectation, changing the narrative, and really humanising the people we’re talking about,” she added.

These are people first, before we label them as migrants

Pope stressed, adding that recognising their dignity is “critical”.

The IOM’s main goal, she said, is to really harness the benefits and the promise of migration, and that she hopes to work together with communities and governments “to build out ways to find opportunities for people who are on the move, rather than just treating the issue as a problem to be solved.”

READ: European politicians must stop exploiting migrant crisis: Rights activist