Geneva (UNA-OIC) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday urged Libya’s unity government and EU countries to act to protect migrants making the dangerous crossing in the central Mediterranean Sea.
Calling for urgent reform of current policies and practices on search and rescue “that too often rob migrants of their lives, dignity and fundamental human rights”, Ms Bachelet said “the real tragedy” is that much of the suffering and death at sea is preventable.
“Every year, people drown because help comes too late, or never comes at all. Those who are rescued are sometimes forced to wait for days or weeks to be safely disembarked or, as has increasingly been the case, are returned to Libya which, as has been stressed on countless occasions, is not a safe harbor due to the cycle of violence,” she said.
The UN rights chief underlined the need for more action to deploy sufficient search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean. She also pressed for greater support for NGOs working in this field, and adoption of a common and human-rights-based arrangement for timely disembarkation of people rescued at sea.
“Until there are sufficient safe, accessible and regular migration channels, people will continue to try to cross the central Mediterranean, no matter what the dangers or consequences,” she added. “I urge EU Member States to show solidarity to ensure that frontline countries, such as Malta and Italy, are not left to shoulder a disproportionate responsibility.”