UN rights body urges new push to stem migrant sea deaths
The UN Human Rights Council on Friday urged countries to step up efforts to stem the string of sea tragedies that claim the lives of thousands of desperate migrants.
The top UN watchdog called on governments “individually and collectively, to protect the human rights of migrants and address the root causes that drive people to make such dangerous journeys”.
“The protection of the human rights of migrants at sea continues to pose a serious challenge,” the 47-nation council said.
It also expressed grave concern over the “persistent vulnerability” of migrants and the “inhuman exploitation suffered by migrants from organized criminal groups”.
While migrant drownings are recorded around the globe, the Mediterranean Sea is the front line.
According to figures from the UN’s refugee agency, more than 2,500 people have drowned or been reported lost at sea this year trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
The grim tally compares with a total of 600 deaths in 2013, and 500 in 2012.
The UN data showed that 75,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta by sea in the first half of 2014.
That marked a 25-percent rise on the 60,000 who made the same journey in the whole of 2013, and over three times the 22,500 who arrived in all of 2012.
Many have fled the war in Syria or repression in Eritrea, or have left poverty-stricken nations in sub-Saharan Africa, preferring to risk their lives at the hands of people smugglers in search of a haven and a better life.
In one of the deadliest wrecks on record, a ship carrying some 500 migrants — including Syrians, Palestinians and Egyptians — was deliberately sunk by traffickers off Malta earlier this month, leaving just 10 known survivors.