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Statement by the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families on the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea

22 April 2016

Several sources estimate that about 500 migrants and asylum seekers may have lost their lives this week in the Mediterranean Sea in an unknown location between Libya and Italy.  The vast majority of these people were nationals from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. It has been widely evidenced by a number of UN experts and others that all these countries have been experiencing severe and generalized human rights violations, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and those who died would have been entitled to protection measures under International Human Rights and Refugee Law.

In these circumstances, the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, first of all, expresses its deep condolences to the families of these migrants and asylum seekers victims of this latest and avoidably tragedy.  From January to April this year alone, about 1,236 people have reportedly died in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach a place of safety.

This Committee reiterates the need for destination countries to revoke measures that restrict and criminalize the mobility of migrants and asylum seekers. We call on the international community to adopt and put in place effective mechanisms aimed at ensuring safe and regular migration so that deaths and disappearances in migratory routes can be prevented. We also call upon all States to cooperate to address root causes as well as criminal smuggling groups. These goals will not be reached unless all countries adopt a comprehensive and shared approach to address this very complex phenomenon based on international human rights and refugee norms and standards, including the Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

According to some sources, the vessel that sank had been  at sea for several days. In this regard, we call upon States and the international community to strengthen policies and initiatives to prevent such tragedies. Operations being put in place in the Mediterranean See and other migration routes should primarily focus on saving and rescuing lives, rather than preventing and returning migrants and asylum seekers.

The measures that several countries have been adopting in order to address irregular migration have not reduced irregular migration. On the contrary, the lack of regular migration opportunities has forced migrant workers to take increasingly dangerous migratory routes, often putting their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers.   Unfortunately, too often, people who are forced to migrate, never make it to places of safety where they can find hope and dignity.  Their hopes for better lives vanish with the boats that sink in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.