New York

19 April 2015

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the deaths of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean

The Secretary-General is shocked and deeply saddened by reports that a ship carrying as many as 700 migrants and refugees has capsized off the Libyan coast.

This tragedy is just the latest in a line of incidents in the last week, in which hundreds of other migrants and refugees are reported to have died. These are urgent reminders of the critical need for a robust search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean. The Secretary-General encourages European Member States and the European Union to accelerate their ongoing efforts to comprehensively address the plight of those seeking refuge within their borders.

With record numbers fleeing war and persecution, more people are trying to reach Europe by boat and more lives are being lost.  At least 3,500 people died in 2014 and if today’s figures are confirmed, they bring the number of those who have died so far in 2015 to some 1,600. This makes the Mediterranean the world’s deadliest route used by asylum seekers and migrants.

The international response to this must be comprehensive and collective. The challenge concerns not only improved rescue at sea and access to protection. It is how to ensure the right to asylum of the growing number of people worldwide fleeing war who need refuge and safe haven. Their journeys are fraught with risks including discrimination, violence and exploitation, and they urgently need our protection during their hour of greatest need.

The Secretary-General recognizes the heavy impact the arrival of so many migrants has on Italy and is grateful to the Government of Italy for all its efforts. The Secretary-General appeals to the international community for solidarity and burden-sharing in the face of this crisis.