GENEVA, JULY 1 – “What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy”, and this “cannot be an Italian problem alone”, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Saturday after, in the of last weekend, 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on its shores, and an estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year.
“Let me stress that saving lives remains a top priority. Search and rescue by all those involved, including by NGOs, the Italian Coast Guard, and government authorities, is critical. We are only at the beginning of the summer, and without swift collective action, we can only expect more tragedies at sea”, Grandi added.
“Italy is playing its part in receiving those rescued and providing asylum to those in need of protection. These efforts must be continued and strengthened. But this cannot be an Italian problem alone”, said the High Commissioner: “It is, first and foremost, a matter of international concern, requiring a joined-up, comprehensive regional approach”.
According to Grandi, Europe in particular needs to be fully involved through an urgent distribution system, increased external engagement and additional legal pathways of admission. “And the response to the immediate crisis must be matched by broader efforts by all concerned, to address the root causes behind migratory pressures, create better protection for people in transit, and address smuggling and trafficking,” he said.
In total, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of the year, which represents an increase of almost 20 per cent compared to the same period last year. Close to 200,000 accommodation places are available for refugees and migrants across the country, but are nearly all full.
Among those arriving, many require special care and support. There is alarmingly high rate among arrivals of unaccompanied children or victims of sexual and gender based violence. Many have suffered extremely traumatic events, including extortion, kidnapping, sexual violence, and abuses back home and in countries on their way to Europe. The number of unaccompanied and separated children went up by 109 per cent between 2015 and 2016, to reach 25,846 at the end of last year. (@OnuItalia)