A weekly press conference was held under the moderation of UN Geneva Office Spokesperson Alessandra Vellucci.
In his speech at the meeting, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh stated that they are concerned about the situation of irregular migrants trying to cross the Central Mediterranean and that the UN has brought this issue to the agenda many times in its statements.
“Italy declared a state of emergency (OHAL) for 6 months in order to manage the migrant crisis, which has increased recently. How do you evaluate this decision? Will it contribute to the resolution of the crisis?” Answering the question, Saltmarsh said, “After the declaration of the state of emergency in Italy, we welcome the allocation of additional funds to increase the capacity and standards for the reception of large numbers of irregular migrants and refugees. There has been a large increase in the number of irregular refugees arriving in Italy recently. Compared to the same period last year There is an increase of 300 percent,” he said.
Noting that Italy should not be left alone in its fight against migration in the Mediterranean, Saltmarsh reiterated his calls for the establishment of new generation evacuation and redistribution centers for those arriving by sea.
Saltmarsh noted that the countries struggling with the migration problem in the Mediterranean should be in solidarity.
Underlining that “saving lives” at sea is a long-standing maritime tradition, Saltmarsh said, “We will continue to reiterate that this is also a legal duty of states.”
Noting that the sinking of ships carrying irregular migrants in the Mediterranean is a tragic event, Saltmarsh underlined that there are major gaps in the rescue capacity in the region and that this needs to be strengthened urgently.
Irregular migration problem in the Central Mediterranean
In the irregular migration influx to Europe, the Central Mediterranean route stands out as one of the routes where intense mobility has been observed in recent years.
On this route, European civil society organizations usually rescue irregular migrants who call for help at sea, instead of European government officials. These NGOs have difficulties in evacuating the irregular migrants they rescue from time to time due to the EU member states’ failure to provide a “safe haven”.
The first place where immigrants who can cross the Mediterranean or are rescued by their own means set foot in Europe is Lampedusa Island, which is the closest land part of Italy to North Africa.
A large number of irregular migrants die each year while trying to cross the Mediterranean, due to the boat capsizing or the lack of air and water due to overcrowding on the boats.
According to the data of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of immigrants arriving in Italy this year, which reached 3 thousand irregular immigrants last weekend, rose to 31 thousand 357.