12 May 2015
UN Special Representative for International Migration: Mediterranean migrant crisis calls for collective action
The Mediterranean migrant crisis calls for collective action focused on the immediate need to save lives or else it will represent ‘a moral failure of the first order’, one that undermines international law and security, Peter Sutherland, the UN Special Representative for International Migration warned.
As the UN Security Council gathered to discuss cooperation between the UN and regional organisations, Mr. Sutherland briefed on the refugee and mixed migratory crisis in the Mediterranean, where in the first 150 days of 2015 alone, some 1,800 people drowned attempting escape to Europe from their own strife-torn homelands. He outlined priorities for the collective response to the situation, including through an urgent focus on saving lives, boosting law enforcement against smugglers, increasing safe avenues for refugee resettlements, greater solidarity with countries closer to conflict, and intensifying efforts to end conflicts that are driving people away.
In a single weekend in April, 900 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean. ‘It is a collective responsibility to act’, said Mr. Sutherland, who a month ago was appointed to an informal group tasked with UN’s response to the migratory crisis. The EU has recently pledged to triple its resources and must commit to search-and-rescue as its first priority, he said, calling on Europe and Africa to develop a common strategy to deal with smugglers and traffickers.
He also called for more attention to the challenges of small countries like Lebanon and Jordan, which are together hosting more than 1.8 million refugees from Syria. The burden cannot fall on the few. ‘We need more resettlement countries. We need larger resettlement quotas. Only half of the 28 EU Member States are resettlement countries’, he urged.
Mr. Sutherland also spotlighted the responsibility of those countries where inequality, dysfunctional governance and poverty drive people to migrate. ‘They need to be accountable toward their own citizens and create conditions where everyone can benefit from economic and social advancement’, he said.