Friday, 3 July 2015

IOM hails efforts to raise migrant death ship off Libya's coast

Migrant arrivals in Italy have topped 20,000 for each of the last two months, reports IOM as 2015 reaches its midpoint.

Approximately 2,900 migrants were rescued at sea in the channel of Sicily in the last 48 hours. The operations have been carried out by the Italian maritime forces and by other EU ships patrolling the Mediterranean: two ships of the Irish and of the British Navy and the MOAS/MSF ship Phoenix.

These new arrivals, according to IOM estimates, brings to about 66,500 the total number of migrants that arrived in Italy in the first six months of the year – a slight increase from 63,884 rescued at this time last year. The rescue operations are ongoing.

Among the rescued migrants, brought to the ports of Lampedusa, Catania, Pozzallo (Sicily), and Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland, most numerous were Eritreans, Nigerians, Gambians, Malians, Senegalese and other sub-Saharan nationals.

Separately, the Italian Navy announced yesterday it had begun efforts to recover the bodies of an estimated 750 or more migrants lost in the channel of Sicily this past April, considered the worst tragedy occurring in the Mediterranean since 2000. The sunken vessel was found in early May by Italian authorities. So far, those bodies recovered, 24 in total, were brought to Malta soon after the tragedy. The sinking resulted in 28 survivors, many of whom confirmed to IOM staffers that their vessel carried around 800 passengers.

The prosecutor’s office of Catania is still conducting its investigation.

“IOM is grateful to the Italian government for having decided to recover the bodies of the migrants who died at sea last 19 April. Thanks to this operation, and to the work of the Italian Navy, families will have the opportunity to identify the bodies of their loved ones and to grieve for them,” said Director of the IOM Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean, Federico Soda.

Meeting Monday (29 June) in London at the Headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing addressed the ongoing situation of perilous migration by sea. Ambassador Swing recalled the agreement of cooperation the two organizations – IOM and IMO – concluded in 1974 and noted with satisfaction their close engagement over many years.

“We recognized that unsafe mixed migration across the oceans and seas has been a serious concern for decades and that it has increased dramatically in recent years posing a major challenge to the international community,” Ambassador Swing said.

The two organizations Monday also announced a seven-point programme to confront the humanitarian crisis. IOM and IMO pledged to:

1. Establish an inter-agency platform for information sharing on unsafe mixed migration by sea, in collaboration with other interested agencies, as soon as possible;

2. Disseminate information material on the dangers of unsafe and irregular migration by sea, in collaboration with other interested agencies;

3. Promote the relevant provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), and international migration law;

4. Support the relevant technical cooperation programmes of each organization;

5. Remain engaged by setting up technical or advisory bodies, as appropriate, on terms and conditions to be mutually agreed upon in each case;

6. Facilitate discussions to find solutions to unsafe migration by sea;

7. Urge the international community to take robust measures against people smugglers who operate without fear or remorse and who deliberately and knowingly endanger the lives of thousands of migrants at sea.

Friday 3 July 2015


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