Switzerland - IOM has welcomed the decision of the Special European Council of Heads of State and Government to put saving lives at the heart of the European response to ending the unacceptable loss of lives of migrants in the Mediterranean.
“IOM believes that the primary objective of any action has to be saving lives, and we very much look forward to seeing the strengthening in that direction of current operations at sea, in order to fulfill the international community's moral obligation to safeguard and protect the fundamental human rights of all migrants,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.
Calling the situation in the Mediterranean “a tragedy,” the EU said it would “mobilize all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency,” adding “Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.”
Following the unprecedented loss of migrant lives during the month of April – IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (mmp.iom.int) calculates over 1,000 new deaths at sea since April 1st – the organization has appealed to the EU to restore a comprehensive life-saving mission throughout the Mediterranean. IOM believes that ending the Mare Nostrum rescue at sea mission last year was premature and applauds the EU’s conclusions that saving lives must be the priority.
IOM is gratified that the EU Council has specifically identified the organization as its strategic partner and welcomes the recognition that the migration situation goes far beyond border security.
The organization views the EU conclusions as an important initial step towards improving governance of migratory flows towards Europe and looks forward to the development of a bold EU migration agenda.
IOM has declared itself ready to work with EU partners to develop a robust international response to put an end to trafficking and smuggling, undercutting forces that are driving so many migrants to their deaths.
For the fight against smuggling and trafficking to be effective, legal and safe avenues must be identified and put in place for migrants to avoid resorting to transnational criminal organizations.
IOM proposes that a migrant response and resource mechanism be created with immediate effect along the migratory routes in key countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The mechanism will provide a comprehensive range of services to identify persons in need of help, counselling, referral and assistance, including voluntary return for economic migrants, among other solutions.
Successful reintegration of returned migrants in the countries of origin must form part of a strategy to address the root causes of migration. IOM advocates that such assistance should also be placed in a wider context of addressing the needs and concerns of the communities of origin and return, in order to effectively tackle the push factors of irregular migration, as well as avoid creating disadvantages for local, non-migrant populations.
The long term commitment to forge links between effective reintegration schemes and local development potential in communities of return is of paramount importance for any meaningful strategy to govern migratory flows.
IOM welcomes the fact that many elements mentioned above are part of the EU Council conclusions and stands ready to extend its full and committed support to their swift implementation.