UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing to States to urgently offer safe ports and disembarkation to two NGO vessels on the Mediterranean carrying 49 rescued refugees and migrants, including young children.
32 people have been on board the Sea Watch 3 vessel since 22 December, while a further 17 were rescued by Sea Eye on 29 December.
Time is increasingly of the essence. Rough seas are expected in the coming hours and conditions on the boats are likely to deteriorate.
“Decisive leadership is required, in line with fundamental values of humanity and compassion, to offer safe disembarkation and bring the 49 safely to land,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. “Negotiations on which States will subsequently receive them must come only after they are safely ashore.”
More than 2,240 people have either died or gone missing at sea attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean in 2018, despite a significant reduction in the number of arrivals. UNHCR commends the work of NGO search and rescue vessels for their critical role towards preventing the death toll from being far higher.
In 2019, there is a critical need to end the current boat-by-boat approach, and for States to implement a regional arrangement that provides shipmasters with clarity and predictability on where to disembark refugees and migrants rescued on the Mediterranean