International Rescue Committee (IRC): As Mediterranean death toll rises, Europe must urgently expand safe pathways for people on the move

1 The International Rescue Committee calls for urgent action from the EU and its Member States as the number of refugees and other migrants who risk making the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe continues to increase.

2 According to the UNHCR, more than 35,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea so far this year, with 192 arrivals reported just a few nights ago.

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3 This represents an increase from the 27,200 received during the same period in 2021.

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4 Tragically, at least 875 people have lost their lives along the Central Mediterranean route so far in 2022.

5 As the number of people forced to make these dangerous journeys continues to rise, the IRC urges the EU and its Member States to urgently expand safe and regular protection pathways in Europe, and ensure that they are supported throughout their journeys.

6 Susanna Zanfrini, Head of IRC Italy Office, says: “No one should be forced to risk their life on a dilapidated or unseaworthy boat in search of safety and security.

seven Again this summer, we are witnessing an increase in the number of people attempting to cross one of the deadliest migration routes in the world.

8 Many of these people have been driven from their homes by growing food insecurity, unemployment and the impact of climate change, with some fleeing violence, conflict or persecution in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan or Somalia. .

9 “Those arriving in Lampedusa are crammed into a reception center which is currently more than four times full: almost 1,900 housed in a space intended for only 350.

ten This hopeless situation could and should have been avoided.

11 Arrivals to islands like Lampedusa tend to peak in the summer months due to better weather conditions.

12 Instead of shirking their responsibilities and demonizing people seeking protection, Italy and other EU states must work together to expand regular and safe pathways for those forced to make the desperate journey through the sea, and welcome newcomers with humanity, dignity and spirit.

13 of solidarity”. Tom Garofalo, IRC Country Director for Libya, said: “People are desperate to leave Libya because of the conditions in which they live.

14 Every day they know they can be kidnapped, arbitrarily detained and subjected to violence and abuse.

15 Risking your life at sea is the last resort.

16 Unfortunately, this route through the central Mediterranean Sea is strewn with pitfalls and has already claimed the lives of more than 870 people this year.

17 “In 2022, more than 9,800 refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants were intercepted by Libyan authorities, including the Coast Guard, and returned to Libyan shores.

18 IRC teams at disembarkation points in Libya routinely treat the horrific injuries suffered by those returned to the country: dehydration, exhaustion, burns from fuel leaks and other physical and mental scars from their traumatic journeys. Yet, instead of receiving the sustained support they need, most are sent to detention where conditions are often deplorable.

19 As we head into the peak summer months, we know that more and more desperate people will attempt the perilous journey from Libya to safety in Europe.

20 It is absolutely essential that the EU relaunch its own search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean as soon as possible in order to avoid further suffering and loss of life.”

21 Imogen Sudbury, IRC’s Executive Director for Policy and Advocacy in Europe, said: “As the number of displaced people around the world has soared to over 100 million for the first time, it is imperative that leaders take urgent and principled action to prevent further suffering on Europe’s borders.

22 If they don’t, the Mediterranean will not simply become a graveyard for more people seeking protection, but for its own values ​​of human rights, dignity and equality.

23 As the death toll rises in the Central Mediterranean, the IRC calls on the EU and its Member States to: Develop safe and regular pathways for protection and mobility from Africa to Europe so that people are not forced to risk their lives in dangerous places.

24 The first step will be to commit to resettling at least 40,000 refugees by 2023, with particular attention to needs along the Central Mediterranean route.

25 This must be complemented by the extension of safe and regular routes to Europe via humanitarian corridors, family reunification and work or study visas Establish an emergency search and rescue mission funded by the EU in the Mediterranean Sea, and ensure that any support, including financial, technological or training, to Libyan authorities, including the Coast Guard, in policies and practices that refer to migration, is conditional on defense human rights of people on the move Strengthen coordination with other maritime rescue actors, including NGOs – so that all people rescued at sea are taken to a place of safety, which Libya is not, like the UNHCR has repeatedly said.

26 Prioritize the end of arbitrary detention and the release of all persons currently held in detention centers in all diplomatic efforts with the Libyan authorities, while urging the latter to guarantee alternatives to detention for persons on the move, especially women and children who are the subject of specific protection.

27 Support partner countries along the Central Mediterranean route in promoting access to services and protection measures, in particular for women, children and other people in vulnerable situations, as well as to guarantee the access to information on basic social, legal and administrative services along the route.

28 Find a political solution for a permanent, legally binding and predictable shared responsibility system based on relocations, so that countries bordering Europe do not bear disproportionate responsibility for supporting newcomers.

29 Present in Libya since August 2016, the IRC provides life-saving health and protection services, supports broader health system strengthening efforts, and builds the capacity of Libyan youth in peacebuilding and governance initiatives. .

30 So far in 2022, the IRC has carried out 49 emergency responses, supporting over 3,800 people, including 190 women and 228 children.

31 In Italy, the IRC works to protect refugees and asylum seekers, focusing on women, unaccompanied children and those in need of psychosocial support.

32 The IRC works with partners to improve its ability to quickly identify survivors of trafficking and strengthen their access to legal assistance and support.

33 The online platform provides clear and timely information to refugees and asylum seekers who need local support services, enabling them to make informed decisions about their lives.

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