By Asmau Ahmad with Agency Report
Mr Vincent Cochetel, Europe Bureau Director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Friday 2nd Jan 2015 stressed the need for urgent action by European nations to protect migrants at sea. His appeal followed recent incidents involving hundreds of people stranded in the Mediterranean while attempting to reach the continent.
Cochetel made the call in a statement issued in New York.
In the statement, he said that the arrival in Italy on Friday of a cargo ship carrying some 450 migrants is part of “an ongoing and worrying situation” that European governments can no longer ignore. He was reacting to media reports that nearly 800 migrants were rescued from another ship found abandoned without any crew earlier in the week.
The use of ships of such size marked a new trend, Cochetel noted, while underlining the need for urgent and concerted European action in the Mediterranean Sea, along with more efforts to rescue people at sea and stepped-up efforts to provide legal alternatives to dangerous voyages.
“Without safer ways for refugees to find safety in Europe, we won’t be able to reduce the multiple risks and dangers posed by these movements at sea.
“UNHCR thanks the Italian authorities for their response to these latest incidents, despite the phasing down of the Mare Nostrum operation,” the statement quoted Cochetel as saying.
He emphasized his concerns about the ending of that operation despite the absence of a similar European search-and-rescue operation to replace it.
“This will undoubtedly increase the risk for those trying to find safety in Europe,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the UNHCR in a report issued in 2014, said that no fewer than 130,000 migrants and asylum seekers are estimated to have arrived in Europe by sea, compared with 80,000 in 2013. The commission also said that no fewer than 800 people died in the Mediterranean so far in 2014.