22 January 2020

UN urges EU to take stranded migrants in Mediterranean

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The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday urged European countries to take 507 rescued migrants who are currently stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. reports citing Anadolu Agency.

"Many are reportedly survivors of appalling abuses in Libya and are from refugee-producing countries. They are in need of humanitarian assistance and some have already expressed an intention to seek international protection," UNHCR said in a statement.

"This is a race against time," said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR special envoy for the Central Mediterranean adding that the condition of migrants is getting worse as storms approach.

"To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya on the high seas in this weather would be to inflict suffering upon suffering. They must be immediately allowed to dock, and allowed to receive much-needed humanitarian aid," he said.

The UNHCR also urged European leaders to translate sentiments shown after the largest Mediterranean shipwreck of 2019 -- which claimed 150 lives -- into meaningful solidarity with people fleeing from Libya.

The statement also said that the Central Mediterranean route needed increased search and rescue efforts and that the role of watercraft operated by non-governmental organizations (NGO) to this end needed to be "acknowledged and supported."

"Their efforts are saving lives, and they should not be stigmatised nor criminalized," it added.

Italy recently passed legislation imposing fines of up to €1 million ($1.12 million) on NGO-run rescue vessels.

The Proactiva Open Arms -- a Spanish NGO-owned ship devoted to search and rescue at sea -- had rescued some 151 migrants in early August.

2019.08.14 / 09:55
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