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IOM laments increasing deaths on West Africa route to Canary Islands

International Organisation of Migration (

The Internatiknal Organization for Migration (IOM) is extremely concerned about the increase in deaths recorded on the West Africa route to the Canary Islands.

So far this year, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded more than 500 deaths, most of them during the months of October and November–—amid increased departures from the coasts of West African countries, including Senegal. The loss of life this year is already more than double compared to 2019, when IOM recorded 210 deaths.

The recorded data, however, represent a minimum estimate. The Organization fears the actual total of lives lost is higher.

“IOM faces numerous challenges in collecting data on the West Africa route, especially when we receive reports about boats disappearing without a trace,” says Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC).

The latest shipwreck was recorded this week (15/11), off the coast of Cabo Verde, where 66 migrants, including three children, arrived on a damaged boat. According to government sources and survivors, more than 130 people initially boarded the vessel before its engine exploded. Some 60 people are reported to have perished during this tragedy. Those onboard were, except for two migrants from The Gambia, all Senegalese.

READ  IOM commends United States’ inclusion of migrants in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

IOM works closely with local partners in the communities and verifies reports and data about such tragedies with survivors, family members and community members. IOM, as an Intergovernmental Organization, also coordinates its efforts and responses with Governments, and confirmed the account of the shipwreck involving about 200 people shared in its press release dated 29 October. Such data are pivotal in contributing to an informed migration-related policy and enable a more human-centred and needs-based approach to migration management.

To date in 2020, over 18,000 migrants have arrived in the Canary Islands after long and dangerous journeys across the Atlantic. At least 12,000 of them arrived in the months of October and November. Most migrants are arriving from West African countries. COVID-19 impacts, including food insecurity, are among the factors believed to be driving these departures.

While these figures depict a seven-fold increase compared to the 1,550 arrivals during the same period of 2019 (January-November), IOM believes that the situation remains manageable through solidarity and a human rights-centred policy and approach.

READ  Seven unidentified Sudanese migrants missing in  Central Mediterranean

IOM is saddened by the continuous loss of life at sea and expresses its condolences to the bereaved families of the those who perished during perilous migration journeys. Prosecuting smuggling groups and traffickers who prey on desperate people and put them on dangerous crossings in unseaworthy vessels, must be a priority together with awareness raising among communities of the risks of irregular migration.

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UNHCR and IOM shocked and dismayed by deaths near Belarus-Poland border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus. The organizations express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia.

In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The two agencies have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.

READ  Seven unidentified Sudanese migrants missing in  Central Mediterranean

Recognizing the significant challenges posed by irregular movements, the agencies have called for the situation to be managed in accordance with international legal obligations, and for States to work collaboratively to resolve the situation, prioritising human rights.

UNHCR and IOM call for immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.

While States have the sovereign right to manage their borders, this is not incompatible with the respect for human rights including the right to seek asylum. Pushbacks endanger lives and are illegal under international law.

UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection.

IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments.

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

 

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

READ  Nigeria extends bans on flights from Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

READ  UNHCR seeks assistance for thousands of Ethiopians fleeing Tigray region

IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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