Migration: ICRC calls for expanded search and rescue, monitoring of humanitarian impact

24 April 2015

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it is vital that plans to boost funding for rescue operations aimed at curbing migrant deaths in the Mediterranean cover an expanded area and that other policy proposals be scrutinised for their humanitarian impact.

"It is obviously a positive step that funding has been boosted for the naval operation. This increase should serve to strengthen the search and rescue capacity. We also need to make sure that it is more robust and covers areas in the central Mediterranean and off the Libyan coast to prevent the needless deaths of those fleeing conflict and poverty," said ICRC President Peter Maurer.

Other proposals put on the table by European leaders in an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday, such as a possible operation to destroy the ships used by smugglers to transport migrants to Europe, "need to be carefully evaluated and monitored for their humanitarian impact on vulnerable migrants," he said.

Amid an extremely complex problem, it is essential to ensure that such potential actions do not produce unintended consequences, such as trapping more people for longer in conflict-wracked Libya.

President Maurer welcomed what he described as European leaders' recognition of the gravity of the crisis. But he called for greater efforts by stakeholders of all kinds to engage with the root causes of the migration flows.

"The ICRC is on the ground helping those caught up in the violence in all the conflict hotspots, such as Syria, Libya and Somalia and what we see is a depth of suffering that demands new initiatives, new political thinking to find solutions to which we humanitarians can of course contribute but States must take the lead."

According to the UN and the International Organisation for Migration, 1,776 people are dead or missing so far this year, compared to 56 for the same period last year.

For further information, please contact:
Francis Markus, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 04