A boat carrying Tunisian migrants enters the port of Lampedusa, Italy, on April 12, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Ettore Ferrari
A boat carrying Tunisian migrants enters the port of Lampedusa, Italy, on April 12, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Ettore Ferrari

At least 39 migrants died in shipwrecks off Tunisia earlier this week. Now, the UN migration and refugee agencies are calling for a new rescue system in the Mediterreanean. On average, there have been three deaths on the route from Northern Africa to Italy every day thusfar in 2021.

The UN migration agency IOM and the UN refugee agency UNHCR issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that the capsizing of two boats off Tunisia's shores on Tuesday underscored the need for search and rescue systems to prevent further deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.

IOM and UNHCR also said that "prosecuting smuggling groups and traffickers who take advantage of the vulnerabilities of people and put them on risky journeys must be a priority."

Deadly Mediterranean crossings

According to the UN agencies, "some 190 people have died while crossing the Central Mediterranean in 2021 ... This is an average of almost three deaths per day." They also said that roughly 5,700 migrants had arrived in Italy from North Africa in the same time period.

"The Central Mediterranean continues to claim lives as thousands of people embark on these perilous journeys, whether fleeing extreme poverty, conflict, or in search of a better life," said IOM’s Chief of Mission in Tunisia, Azzouz Samri. "We continue to call for proactive search and rescue in the most dangerous sea crossing in the world, and the establishment of clear and safe disembarkation for people rescued at sea."

 

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