Switzerland: UN refugees chief urges more solidarity with Italy

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is urging solidarity with Italy and international reaction as thousands of refugees continue to cross from the Mediterranean in efforts to reach Europe.

“What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy," he said in a statement on Saturday. "In the course of last weekend, 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on its shores, and an estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year."

Italy has said the influx of refugees into the country is not sustainable and has threatened to close its ports and impound rescue ships run by aid agencies carrying people from Libya.

Reports say the interior ministers of Germany, France and Italy are due to meet for crisis talks in Paris.

Mr Grandi stressed that saving lives remained a top priority. "Search and rescue by all those involved, including by NGOs, the Italian Coast Guard, and government authorities, is critical. We are only at the beginning of the summer, and without swift collective action, we can only expect more tragedies at sea."

The UN refugees chief said Italy is playing its part in receiving those rescued and providing asylum to those in need of protection.

Grandi stressed that these efforts must be continued and strengthened, pointing out that this cannot be an Italian problem alone. It is, first and foremost, a matter of international concern, requiring a joined-up, comprehensive regional approach.

"Europe in particular needs to be fully involved through an urgent distribution system, increased external engagement and additional legal pathways of admission. And the response to the immediate crisis must be matched by broader efforts by all concerned, to address the root causes behind migratory pressures, create better protection for people in transit, and address smuggling and trafficking.”

UNHCR said in total, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of the year, which represents an increase of almost 20 per cent compared to the same period last year. Close to 200,000 accommodation places are available for refugees and migrants across the country, but are nearly all full.

Among those arriving, many require special care and support. There is alarmingly high rate among arrivals of unaccompanied children or victims of sexual and gender based violence. Many have suffered extremely traumatic events, including extortion, kidnapping, sexual violence, and abuses back home and in countries on their way to Europe.

The number of unaccompanied and separated children went up by 109 per cent between 2015 and 2016, to reach 25,846 at the end of last year.
-0- PANA MA 2July2017

02 july 2017 07:06:41

xhtml CSS