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In the wake of yet another devastating shipwreck in the Mediterranean, three UN agencies voiced their concerns, advocating for enhanced, secure routes for migrants and asylum-seekers heading to the EU.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) pressed for a more unified approach to search and rescue operations, said the UN News on Thursday.
This recent tragedy, unfolding between August 3 and 4, saw only four individuals rescued — by a commercial ship. These survivors, later escorted to Lampedusa by the Italian Coast Guard, shared that they were initially a group of 45. Sadly, 41, including three children, remain unaccounted for.
Lending support during the disembarkation and initial reception stages, IOM, UNHCR, and Unicef collaborate with local authorities in Lampedusa. Their aim is to guarantee that those in need of international protection receive it and to identify individuals with particular needs promptly, Xinhua news agency reported.
Such incidents contribute to the escalating death toll from shipwrecks in the central Mediterranean. Data from IOM’s Missing Migrants Project indicates that more than 1,800 individuals have either died or gone missing on this route in 2023 alone. Shockingly, this path represents more than 75 per cent of all Mediterranean fatalities over the past decade.
The vessel involved, an iron barge that embarked from Sfax, Tunisia, fell victim to the merciless Mediterranean waves. The UN agencies emphasise the heightened risks associated with iron vessel crossings, especially under adverse weather conditions, UN News said.
These “heart-wrenching events” illuminate the smugglers’ utter lack of humanity towards the migrants and refugees. This is further exemplified by a recent incident off Lampedusa where a pregnant woman and her child perished, according to UN News.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, highlighted the need for improved management of these migration flows.
On the social media platform X (previously Twitter), Grandi emphasised addressing underlying issues, responses in transit nations, trafficking, and establishing secure migration routes. Without further commitment from states towards structured and coordinated sea rescues, he warns, tragedies like this will undoubtedly recur.