IMO urges action to aid migrants at sea

IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu

The so-called ‘boat people crisis’ in which marine migrants face death, injury and human rights abuse during perilous journeys at sea demands concerted action from the international community, the IMO has said in a joint statement with other UN agencies.

Around 22,400 migrants are thought to have lost their lives in the dangerous Mediterranean crossing between North Africa and Europe since the beginning of the 21st century. This year (2014) has been the deadliest year by far with 3072 deaths recorded.

IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu has called for an international effort of the scale that was mobilised to counter piracy. “[This showed] the ability of Governments to react when they wish to address maritime challenges. This is one such challenge,” he said.

The statement called for more coordination between countries of origin, transit and destination and relevant agencies.

The Secretary General will call a meeting with fellow UN agencies – International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – to discuss practical measures.

“Action must be taken to prevent this organised crime in the first place,” he said. “Migrants do not possess boats and somebody must have arranged the boats, the fuel and the boats’ operators and then set sail with hundreds of migrants.”

Measures could include information sharing on known smugglers and boats used for the unsafe and unregulated passage of migrants over the sea.