Geneva – The continued indifference towards the increasing loss of life resulting from the sinking of migrant and asylum seekers’ boats in the Mediterranean reflects a catastrophic moral failure of all parties involved, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said Sunday in a statement.
A small wooden boat carrying 35 migrants and asylum seekers capsized off the coast of the Libyan city of Sabratha last Friday. Six bodies were recovered, and 29 still are missing. All are likely to have perished, as chances of survival are low and official rescue missions in the area are absent.
As of April, 193 migrants and asylum seekers have died or gone missing in eight drowning incidents in the Mediterranean, compared to 72 during the same period last year.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 560 migrants and asylum seekers have died or gone missing in the Med since the beginning of the year, including 53 who died off the coast of Libya just last week.
Desperate migrants and asylum seekers will continue to risk their lives to try to reach Europe despite the dangers that may threaten them. Instead, they should be provided with new ways to find safe passages, and strict policies and requirements for receiving and seeking asylum should be eased.
The European Union countries received more than 3.5 million Ukrainian refugees in less than a month, granted them temporary protection immediately, and pledged to overcome all obstacles to ensure that they enjoy their full rights. The same countries continue to put new obstacles in the way of arrivals from the countries of the Middle East and Africa. Prior to that, great efforts were made to prevent them from reaching Europe, and agreements were concluded with source countries to repel migrants and asylum seekers without considering the humanitarian consequences resulting from such agreements.
Euro-Med Monitor recently reported that the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean increased to approximately 116,573 during the past year; an increase of more than 20% from the year 2020, which saw the arrival of 88,143 migrants and asylum seekers.
Similarly, 2021 witnessed an increase in the number of deaths and missing persons in the Med, as about 1,864 people died or went missing, including 64 children. This is an increase of about 21% over 2020, in which 1,401 people died or went missing.
All concerned parties should abide by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which emphasizes the necessity to rescue and assist people stranded at sea, as well as the International Convention for Search and Rescue, which urges coastal states to coordinate the rescue of the distressed at sea.
Italy, Greece, and other European destination countries should activate official rescue missions and work on permanent patrols to ensure a rapid response to drowning incidents to help reduce deaths among migrants and asylum seekers.
The European Union should establish a new mechanism through which safe corridors can be developed for migration to protect migrants and asylum seekers from human traffickers' exploitation. They should also develop reception mechanisms and conditions, stop arbitrarily rejecting asylum applications, and work to integrate migrants and refugees into their new communities.