Following the fateful shipwreck that killed at least 45 people off the coast of the province of Crotone, in the Italian region of Calabria, both the General secretary of the UN as the agencies in charge of caring for refugees and migrants, today called for urgent access to safer travel routes and more effective rescue operations.
“All people who seek a better life deserve security and dignity,” António Guterres reiterated this Sunday in a message on his Twitter account. “We need safe and legal routes for migrants and refugees,” said the head of the Organization.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) expressed in a joint statement their condolences for the loss of dozens of lives and asked countries to increase their resources and capacities to effectively comply with their obligations.
The death toll could rise
The rescue tasks carried out until Sunday night managed to recover 45 lifeless bodies, but search teams fear the death toll could be higheralthough it is expected that there will be at least 80 survivors.
The information available to both organizations indicates that there were at least 170 people on board the small boat, including children and families, who had left Turkey and came mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Arrivals from Turkey represented in 2022 about 15% of the total arrivals by sea to Italy. Almost half of the people who arrived by this route were people fleeing Afghanistan.
Rescue mechanisms are “insufficient”
“It is unacceptable to witness such horrors, with families and children entrusted to dilapidated and unseaworthy boats,” said Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR representative for Italy, the Holy See and San Marino. “This tragedy must prompt us to act and to act immediately.”
Both organizations reiterated the “urgent need” to establish mechanisms for rescue operations at the European Union level and continued to call on States “to increase their resources and capabilities to effectively fulfill their responsibilities.”
Cardoletti recalled that “in a historical context characterized by people forced to flee from conflicts and persecution, it is more necessary than ever to strengthen the rescue capacity, which is still insufficient”.
For her part, the director of the Coordination Office for the Mediterranean of the IOMLaurence Hart, stated that “in the Mediterranean, the real emergency is not numerical, but humanitarian.”
Hart stressed that “this tragedy shows that the phenomenon of migration by sea must be addressed by all European States with an approach that further examines the multiple causes that push people to flee both their countries of origin and transit nations in these dramatic conditions, including increased humanitarian and development support.”
According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, at least 220 people have died or disappeared along the central Mediterranean migration route this year.