27 April 2015

Remarks on board the Italian naval ship the San Giusto

Ban Ki-moon

Dear Admiral and dear officers of the San Giusto, it's a great honour for me to take this opportunity to learn more about how your operation is taking place.

I would like to thank Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy and his Government for its great, compassionate leadership. It has been the bearing the brunt of all these challenges and I thank you very much for your commitment, and for organizing this valuable opportunity for me to visit this ship.

I would also like to thank High Representative Federica Mogherini of the European Union for your strong support and combined leadership to address this problem.

The Mediterranean Sea has always been known as peaceful and tranquil. Unfortunately, recently, due to political instability, in some parts of Africa, particularly North Africa, this sea has sadly become a sea of tears, a sea of misery. That is very sad. I think it seems to be the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. So many thousands of people have lost their lives in their pursuit for a better future. I know why they have been risking their lives despite very difficult challenges. It is because [of a] lack of opportunity, their pursuit for peace and a better future. We have to care for them. At the same time, I know it is a huge challenge for the Italian Government and, in a broader sense, European governments. Not a single country – like Italy – can bear all this responsibility. In that regard, I welcome and commend the leadership of the European Union. They were united and showed their solidarity to address this humanitarian crisis and to give a better future for many people. They are the most vulnerable and poorest people, in fact. They do not have any means.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations and also concerned departments and agencies, particularly the High Commissioner for Refugees, we are ready to work with you. First of all, we have to stop and prevent human trafficking. This is criminal. I really appreciate your hard work, despite limited resources and capacity. But only your commitment and hard work can handle this matter. We have to address these issues from the root causes -- why are they risking their lives.

We also have to find political solution, on the ground, particularly in Libya and all the political instability in northern Africa. I count on the leadership of the European Union. You are the group of countries that has maximum capacity and willingness. I really count on your continuing leadership.

This [briefing] has been an invaluable experience for me. I will raise my voice for collective responsibility and sharing of responsibility and burden in the name of humanity. We have to help them and you can help them with your compassion.