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Five children, 40 other migrants die in largest recorded shipwreck off Libya Coast 

 

No fewer than 45 migrants and refugees have died in a shipwreck that occured off the Libyan Coast.

The incident which happened on Monday, August 17, is said to be the largest this year.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in a joint statement said they  are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths.
According to the statement , some 37 survivors, mainly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana, were rescued by local fishermen and later detained upon disembarkation. They reported to IOM staff that 45 others including five children lost their lives when the vessel’s engine exploded off the coast of Zwara.
The two organisations are calling for a review of States’ approach to the situation after this latest incident in the Mediterranean. There is an urgent need to strengthen the current search and rescue capacity there to respond to distress calls.There remains a continued absence of any dedicated, EU-led search and rescue programme. We fear that without an urgent increase in search and rescue capacity, there is a risk of another disaster similar to incidents that saw large loss of life on the Central Mediterranean prior to the launch of Mare Nostrum.

NGO vessels have played a crucial role in saving lives at sea amid a sharp reduction in European state-led efforts. The humanitarian imperative of saving lives should not be impeded and legal and logistical restrictions on their work must quickly be lifted.

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IOM and UNHCR are deeply concerned by recent delays in rescue and disembarkation. We urge states to swiftly respond to these incidents and systematically provide a predictable port of safety to people rescued at sea. Delays recorded in recent months, and failure to assist, are unacceptable and put lives at avoidable risk.

Where commercial vessels are the nearest boat capable of carrying out a rescue, they should be promptly provided with a safe port for disembarking the rescued passengers. They should not be instructed to return people to Libya, where they are at risk of the ongoing conflict, severe human rights violations, and arbitrary detention post-disembarkation.

Responsibility for carrying out rescues is increasingly being taken by the Libyan State vessels, which has led to more than 7,000 people being returned to Libya so far in 2020. Any assistance and responsibilities assigned to Libyan search and rescue entities should be made conditional on no one being arbitrarily detained, ill-treated or subjected to human rights violations post-disembarkation. Without such guarantees, support should be reconsidered, and search and rescue responsibilities redefined.

At least 302 migrants and refugees perished on this route so far this year. According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project and UNHCR, the current estimated number of fatalities is likely much higher.

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IOM and UNHCR recognize the continued challenges presented by sea arrivals and welcome the efforts of Mediterranean coastal States to continue receiving rescued refugees and migrants. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, two-thirds of European countries have found ways to manage their borders effectively while allowing access to their territories for people seeking asylum. Medical screenings at borders, health certification or temporary quarantine upon arrival are some of the measures put in place by a number of European and other countries. The pandemic should not be used as an excuse to deny people access to all forms of international protection.

Over 17,000 people have arrived in Italy and Malta this year by boat from Libya and Tunisia, a threefold increase compared to 2019. However, the number has drastically decreased compared to years prior to 2019 and is manageable with political will and EU solidarity with European coastal States. We reiterate the urgent need to move beyond ad hoc arrangements to a swifter, more predictable disembarkation mechanism.

The instability and lack of security in Libya enables smugglers, traffickers, and criminals in general to act with impunity as they prey on vulnerable migrants and refugees.

READ  Edo Taskforce assures continued support for returnee migrants

IOM and UNHCR call on Libyan authorities to take firm steps against smugglers and traffickers. This should include disrupting and ending smuggling rings led by criminal groups to prevent further exploitation and abuse. The international community should assist these efforts and provide more support to the authorities in their fight against human trafficking networks.

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IOM resumes voluntary humanitarian return assistance flights from Libya after months of suspension

Migrants headed for the Gambian capital Banjul board a plane at Misrata International Airport after IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return flights resumed from Libya. Photo: Moayad Zaghdani/IOM Libya

Tripoli – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has resumed humanitarian flights from Libya after receiving clearance from the Government of National Unity and has safely returned a group of stranded Gambian migrants who are among thousands of others waiting to go home through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

Thursday’s flight, carrying 127 people (117 men,  five women, five children) from Misrata airport to the Gambian capital of Banjul, marked the first since 8 August when all humanitarian flights were suspended by the Ministry of Interior. The returnees included migrants who had been detained in overcrowded detention centres and waiting for months to go back to their home countries.

“More than 10,000 migrants in Libya have requested IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance and have been waiting for months to return home,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “It is extremely significant that the government has lifted the suspension because IOM’s VHR programme is critical for migrants who want to leave Libya and return home in a safe, legal and dignified manner and rebuild their lives.”

The return process is also supported by the countries of origin with whom the pre-departure work in Libya is closely coordinated along with the arrival of their nationals in the capitals. Before departure, the returning migrants had health checks and were given pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and protection screening. They also received personal protective equipment and took COVID-19 tests before boarding.

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Libya has long been an important transit and destination country for migrants arriving from different parts of Africa. Many become stranded in the country with limited options to return home. Since 2015, more than 53,000 migrants have returned from Libya through the VHR programme, which is funded by the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and through the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Migration Fund.

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IOM assists over 10,800 Haitians returned from the US, Mexico and Caribbean in past month

Port-au-Prince –The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has given post-arrival assistance to a total of 10,831 Haitian migrants returned over the past month from the United States, Mexico, Cuba, The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, or returned by the Coast Guard.

At the two main reception points Port-au-Prince Toussaint Louverture Airport and the Cap-Haïtien International Airport, returnees receive hot meals, juice and water, hygiene kits and pocket money, while IOM protection teams conduct rapid screenings to identify vulnerable returnees and offer medical and psychosocial support. Returnees can contact relatives by phones at their disposal, while IOM’s 8840 free hotline remains open for feedback and questions.

Details about IOM’s Response here.

IOM supports the National Office for Migration (ONM) with the coordination and provision of post-arrival assistance, including the registration process and referrals to specialized services. Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Population (MSPP), supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), performs rapid COVID-19 tests upon arrival.

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“The on-arrival reception activities conducted in the past month are the result of a coordinated effort between the Government of Haiti, IOM and all partners,” said Giuseppe Loprete, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti.

“Migrants returned to Haiti need immediate assistance, as many of them have been out of the country for years, while others only recently attempted to leave due to the (14 August) earthquake. IOM remains committed to supporting all of them in returning home, joining their families or resettling in Haiti while the root causes are identified and addressed by governments in the region.”

Adult men represent 61 per cent of the total number of returnees, while women make up 23 per cent  and children 16 per cent. Among those returned specifically from the US, adult men also represent the majority (56 per cent), especially among those arriving to Cap-Haïtien (74 per cent).

Most of those returned from the US who were assisted by IOM had been living in Latin American countries for several years before starting their journey towards the US. Over a quarter of the children returned were born outside Haiti and acquired a foreign nationality, mostly Chilean and Brazilian.

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Among the 1,789 children returned, 15 unaccompanied migrant children were travelling by sea to the US or Caribbean islands when they were identified and sent back to Haiti. Family reunification has been possible through IOM’s collaboration with Haiti’s Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR).

Some returnees – particularly those travelling by sea – had started their journeys in recent years motivated by various factors, such as lack of income or job opportunities, insufficient access to services, the August earthquake, insecurity, and political instability.

The precarious conditions that Haitian migrants face while transiting the region, particularly in the Darien Gap, make them vulnerable to protection risks, including gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, migrant smuggling and other forms of abuse or violence, now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100,000 people have made the perilous jungle crossing this year.

The assistance for Haitian returnees is currently funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

READ  EU turns its back on migrants in distress

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IOM appeals for $74.7M to provide humanitarian assistance for highly vulnerable migrants transiting Americas

So far this year more than 100,000 migrants have crossed the perilous Darien Gap, many stopping in migrant reception centres in Panama before heading farther north.  Photo: IOM/Jose Espinosa Bilgray.

San José / Buenos Aires - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is appealing for USD 74.7 million to respond to the humanitarian needs of the growing number of vulnerable migrants moving from the Caribbean and South America and then crossing through Central America towards Mexico and the United States. These highly vulnerable migrants are mainly Haitian nationals, as well as Cuban, Brazilian, and Chilean. Others are nationals from Asia and Africa.

More than 100,000 migrants so far this year have irregularly crossed the perilous Darien Gap jungle to Panama from Colombia after trekking through several countries in South America.  The figure for the first nine months of 2021 triples the previous record of 30,000 on the same route during all of 2016. From Panama, migrants continue north on a journey that is particularly hazardous for women and children.

The Directors of IOM’s regional offices in San Jose and Buenos Aires said that the more than 200,000 Haitians who had already settled in Argentina, Brazil and Chile after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake also were increasingly vulnerable.

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‘’The worsening socioeconomic conditions, the tightening of visa regulations, the difficulties in obtaining information and documents to regularize their status, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasing xenophobia, among other factors, have profoundly impacted the well-being of the Haitian community in these countries and reduced opportunities for integration.

“The large flows of Haitians, Cubans and migrants of other nationalities have also stretched the capacity of many host and transit countries, some of which have become hotspots for rising incidents of xenophobia and violence.”

Funding is needed to provide life-saving assistance and to address some of the drivers of mobility, as well as the impact on 75,000 migrant, host and transit community members. The assistance would include food, clothing, health services and psychosocial support, safe shelters, and protection for victims and people at risk of gender-based violence and trafficking in persons.

The appeal also seeks to establish region-wide migration flow monitoring systems, alert migrants to dangers ahead, such as trafficking and smuggling, and to kick-start community-based reintegration. Minimizing protection risks through sensitization and social inclusion, working with authorities to strengthen management of these flows and to address the drivers and longer-term impacts of crises and displacement are also key goals.

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IOM’s appeal also aims to provide humanitarian transportation assistance. In Brazil, for example, stranded migrants often require help to return to their previous host communities. In other countries, migrants may need assistance to reach designated temporary accommodation centres. IOM would cover the needs when required by authorities.

As returns to Haiti continue, the funding request also comprises post-arrival humanitarian assistance, including the improvement of reception facilities at the two international airports of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. IOM is also working closely with partners in Haiti on long-term community stabilization, targeting migration-prone areas and including a reintegration plan to prevent repeated irregular migration patterns.

The appeal will cover activities in 14 countries of origin, transit, and destination: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru. The appeal is not broken down by country breakdown as the situation remains very fluid and calls on donors to provide flexible funding based on the Grand Bargain commitments.

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