Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) - The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) 31 March called for greater international cooperation at sea, following the disastrous sinking late Monday of one boat carrying hundreds of refugees. The number of dead is not known, but feared to be above 300. Earlier this week, says the UNHCR, its office in Rome reported that 244 illegal migrants arrived by boat in Sicily and another 219 in Lampedusa.
The organization noted that this is the only the start of the smuggling season. “This is the latest tragic example of a global phenomenon in which desperate people take desperate measures to escape conflict, persecution and poverty in search of a better life,” says High Commissioner António Guterres.
In 2008, some 36,000 illegal migrants arrived in Italy from Africa.
The organization commented, “We are shocked by the reports of hundreds of people trying to reach Europe, missing off the coast of Libya. Details are still sketchy, but reports indicate a number of vessels carrying several hundred people set sail from the coast of Libya in the direction of Italy over the last few days. At least one boat reportedly went down and hundreds of people aboard are reported missing. Egyptian authorities said the mishap occurred about 30 kms off the Libyan coast and that some Egyptian nationals were rescued. Bodies were also recovered. Authorities said those aboard included North Africans and sub-Saharan Africans.”