UN Urges Migrant Asylum, Protection in Mediterranean

UN Urges Migrant Asylum, Protection in MediterraneanUN Urges Migrant Asylum, Protection in Mediterranean

The UN expressed concern over increased people smuggling in the Mediterranean following a deadly weekend shipwreck, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of an EU summit that “simply blocking migrants is not the solution.”

“We need to make sure that the asylum component and the protection of people component is one that is prioritized within these measures,” Volker Turk, assistant UN High Commissioner for protection, said in Geneva Tuesday, DW said in a report.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expressed concern over perils faced by migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Early Sunday, a boat capsized off Libya en route to an Italian island.

Only 27 people are known to have survived the disaster; at least 900 people are feared to have drowned. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sunday’s incident was the “deadliest” ever recorded in the Mediterranean.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya,” said the 15-nation body.

On Monday, Italy’s coast guard took two survivors into custody. Authorities detained 25-year-old crew member Mahmud Bikhit, a Syrian national, on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration and Captain Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, on suspicion of multiple murders, causing a shipwreck and aiding illegal immigration.

  Cargo of Death

UK officials have announced possible help for fellow EU members dealing with the deaths in the Mediterranean. Late Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he wanted a “more formidable operation on the sea,” while Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to keep migrants from traveling in order to “stop this cargo of death.”

Cameron plans to elaborate on the UK’s plans on Thursday at an emergency summit of European leaders called to address the crisis. On Monday, EU leaders released a 10-point plan to prevent further deaths.

Meanwhile, Merkel is in favor of a three-pronged approach. Addressing lawmakers from her Christian Democrats-Christian Social Union faction on Tuesday, Merkel said the EU should focus on “rescuing, going after traffickers and fighting the causes of migration,” and stressed that simply blocking the arrival of migrants would not solve the problem.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the Mediterranean as “fast becoming a sea of misery.” He added, “More than twice as many migrants have died at sea in the past year than on the Titanic. It should shock the global conscience.”

A group of German writers has demanded that Europe do more to protect vulnerable migrants.

More than 36,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, according to the United Nations, most of them fleeing from Libya. UN officials fear that nearly 1,800 people have died in attempted crossings of the Mediterranean.