Top UN human rights officials and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) [official website] issued a joint statement [text] Thursday calling on the EU to create a new rescue operation program for migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean and to commit to greater receipt of refugees. The statement, signed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN Special representative for migration Peter Sutherland and Director General of the IOM William Lacy Swing [official profiles], criticized the 10-point plan [text] generated by the EU earlier this week, arguing that the EU plan focuses too heavily on stemming the arrival of migrants and refugees rather than “the safety, protection needs, and human rights of all migrants and refugees.” The statement urges the EU to establish “robust, proactive, and well-resourced search-and-rescue operation” and commit to creating sufficient new channels for safe migration so to receive significantly higher numbers of refugees.
Refuges from the conflicts in the Africa and the Middle East have generated a tremendous humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean with hundreds of deaths in recent months. Earlier this week UN rights experts warned [JURIST report] the EU that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. In February a Spanish court accused 16 civil guards of using excessive force against 15 sub-Saharan immigrants who drowned attempting to swim around a seawall between Ceuta and Morocco last February. Also in February Amnesty International [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the EU’s failure to prevent migrant casualties at sea. The statement comes amid reports that as many as 300 migrants may have died off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa