UNHCR: “Provide Refugees Legal Alternatives to Dangerous Sea Journeys”

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has urged States to provide refugees “legal alternatives to dangerous sea journeys.”

Refugees arrive off the European coast

The alternatives may include “increased family reunification, speedy resettlement and humanitarian admissions,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

According to UNHCR, more than 500 people are known to have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa and Asia to various countries in Europe.

The latest boat tragedy took place on Monday in which at least 12 people died.

The Libyan coast guard informed UNHCR on Monday that the dead in the latest accident included three Syrians – including the mother and her children aged three and six – three Eritrean nationals and six other Africans of as yet undetermined nationalities.

The boat, which reportedly capsized off the coast of Tripoli, had a capacity of about 200 passengers and may have been carrying many more people, Edwards said.

Search and rescue operations are ongoing and the fate of others who may have been aboard is unknown.

“UNHCR applauds search and rescue operations by government authorities but asks that such operations are further strengthened – particularly in areas with high concentrations of boat crossings,” Edwards said.

UNHCR further urged governments “to resist punitive or deterrent measures including detention for people seeking safety.”

UNHCR’s Tripoli and Benghazi offices have registered almost 37,000 asylum-seekers and refugees. Syrians make up the largest group (18,655), followed by Eritreans (4,673), Somalis (2,380) and Iraqis (3,105).

“Not all asylum-seekers are registered,” said Edwards. “Many asylum-seekers live in precarious conditions – such as over-crowded accommodations with little legal access to employment and have been affected and further displaced by the current unrest in Libya.”

– Africa News