Vincent Cochetel, UN special envoy for the Central Mediterranean | Photo: EPA/Noemi Bruzak
Vincent Cochetel, UN special envoy for the Central Mediterranean | Photo: EPA/Noemi Bruzak

Following another shipwreck in the Mediterreanean Sea, UN refugee agency UNHCR said it is "unacceptable" that these tragedies happen. It is calling for restoring an official search and rescue (SAR) system as soon as possible.

UNHCR spokesperson Carlotta Sami on Twitter said that shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea were "unacceptable," following the shipwreck off the coast of Libya, which took place overnight between Monday and Tuesday. 

"These deaths can't be considered misfortune or collateral damage," Sami said. "The search and rescue system in the Mediterranean must be restored as soon as possible. Maximum support to the NGOs working to fill the humanitarian void," she said. 

"We are assisting the survivors in Libya. The absence of search and rescue (SAR) in the Mediterranean is unsustainable. We estimate about 900 deaths this year," she said. 

'New efforts are needed to limit the loss of life'

Vincent Cochetel, UN special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, said these tragedies must not be simply accepted as inevitable. 

"Compassion must now translate into actions that prevent the loss of life at sea and the loss of hope, which is what motivates people to risk their lives more than anything else," he said. 

UNHCR is calling for renewed efforts to rescue people at sea, including a return of search and rescue vessels sponsored by EU states. 

"Legal and logistical restrictions on NGO search and rescue operations, both at sea and in the air, should be lifted," UNHCR said. "Coastal states should facilitate, not impede, efforts by volunteers to reduce deaths at sea. These measures should go hand in hand with increased evacuation and resettlement places from states to move refugees in Libya out of harm's way," it said. 

Better support for migrants in Libya 

UNHCR said the most recent shipwreck took place on the same day UNHCR's Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, visited Libya to assess the country's rising humanitarian needs.

"Clements called for increased support to people affected by the ongoing violence, including refugees and migrants, and reiterated UNHCR's call for an end to the arbitrary detention of people rescued at sea and returned to Libya. Clements pledged UNHCR's commitment to work with Libyan authorities in setting up alternatives to detention for more than 4,800 refugees and migrants currently being held inside detention centres," it said. 


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