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UN Human Rights Office concerned about the lack of assistance to migrants at sea

Restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a lack of assistance for migrants in the Central Mediterranean. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) held a virtual press conference on 8 May 2020 to express its concern about the situation.

“We are deeply concerned by recent reports of lack of assistance and coordinated discharges of migrant boats in the Central Mediterranean, which continues to be one of the world’s deadliest migration routes,” said UN Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville.

Search and rescue missions carried out by NGO vessels have largely been called off since the restrictions were put into place across Europe. The relevant NGOs have cited the lack of logistical resources and the closure of the Italian and Maltese borders as their reasons for ceasing their rescue activities for migrants coming from Libya.

In the meantime, the Libyan Coast Guard continues to send ships back to its coasts and to place intercepted migrants in arbitrary detention centres. “There is a high risk of contamination of the new coronavirus in these overcrowded facilities,” Mr Colville warned. 

UN Human Rights also condemns regulations and administrative measures used to hamper the work of humanitarian NGOs and calls for the immediate lifting of restrictions on the work of these rescuers.


Photo credit:  Stefano Garau/ Shutterstock

Photo caption: Cagliari, Italy 06/10/2016; the ship “Rio Segura” arrives at the port of Cagliari with 1250 migrants recovered from the Mediterranean Sea.