UNHCR pleads for return of sea rescues as nine African migrants die in Mediterranean
London, Oct. 7, 2019 (AltAfrica)-The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has called for a return of sea rescues to curb the deaths of migrants attempting to reach Europe
Grandi made the remarks on Monday at the 70th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme in Geneva.
Grandi’s call came hours after Italy’s coastguard rescued 22 people from a boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa, but officials said nine other people died.
The U.N. migration agency said the boat had set sail from Tunisia with approximately 50 people on board. Most of the passengers were migrants from Tunisia and west Africa.
“This highlights once again that urgent action is needed to address the situation in the Mediterranean,” said Charlie Yaxley, a spokesperson for the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR.
“I welcome the recent decisions of four EU States to establish a temporary cooperation mechanism for disembarking those rescued in the Mediterranean, and hope that this will galvanise broader EU engagement and revitalize rescue at sea arrangements. But this must also be matched by a broader ambition – investments in addressing the root causes of refugee flows, and supporting the efforts of refugee-hosting and transit countries,” he said.
Grandi also took the opportunity to hail Rwanda and Niger for accepting to host refugees stranded in Libya following botched sea crossings.
The two countries have provided secure holding and transit facilities where the migrants can be accommodated as they await repatriation to their countries or third countries.
“UNHCR continues to evacuate the most vulnerable from Libya – efforts for which Niger and now Rwanda are providing life-saving channels. Hopefully, others will join,” the UNHCR chief said.
He however noted that such plans can only be sustained with cooperation from the international community, with a key focus on preservation of human life.
Grandi’s remarks come following an announcement earlier this month by the UN migration agency that the 2019 death toll of migrants in the Mediterranean had surpassed 1,000, the sixth straight year that the figure has been reached.
UNHCR’s governing Executive Committee meets in Geneva annually to review and approve the agency’s programmes and budget, advise on international protection and discuss a range of other issues with UNHCR and intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.
The current meeting begun on Monday and is scheduled to run until Friday, 11 October.