UN Migration Agency calls for stronger rescue cooperation and solidarity with Italy

SWITZERLAND — Ahead of this week’s informal meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers, the UN International Organisation for Migration, IOM, has urged European Union member states to reinvigorate cooperation in the shared interest of saving more lives in the Mediterranean, and to help member states on the EU’s southern border to receive, assist and accommodate people rescued at sea.

According to a statement by the IOM, William Lacy Swing, IOM Director-General, said, “Starting with Mare Nostrum, Italy has consistently shown its will and determination to deploy the means and capacities to save lives and handle the hundreds of thousands of people arriving at its shores over the past several years across the Mediterranean, and in the process, have saved several hundred thousands of lives.”

“The reception of rescued migrants cannot be seen as an issue only for Italy, but a matter for Europe as a whole,” he added.

Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM Regional Director for the EU in Brussels, said that the absolute priority in the event of interception at sea is the swift disembarkation of those rescued to a “place of safety” according to applicable international law, to save and preserve lives.

“States must organise this solidarity before, during and after disembarkation, this is the overriding concern in respecting the rule of law, and to save lives, while preserving the interests of host communities as well,” Ambrosi added.

IOM reiterates that the EU cannot continue to deal with the situation in a ‘crisis’ mode, and sees no alternative to tackling the larger structural issues with greater priority, longer-term measures and intensified cooperation from Europe as a whole.

Nearly 12,000 migrants have been rescued and brought to Italy since 24th June alone, however, the IOM office in Rome reports that this is not the first time this number of arrivals has been registered in a short period of time.

As of 3rd July, 85,183 migrants had been rescued in 2017. Arrivals to Italy are up around 19 percent over last year, but in line with a generally stable trend over the last few years.

Migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean are estimated to be at least 2,247 so far this year, well on the way to match last year’s record number of deaths, which exceeded 5,000 men, women and children.

To date, 7,354 people have been relocated to other EU Member States from Italy under the EU Relocation Programme.

Source: Emirates News Agency