UNHCR calls for urgent action to prevent boat tragedies

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Hundreds of people are forced to sail to safety on their fishing boats.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is urging States in the Bay of Bengal to agree to protocols for the safe and quick disembarkation of rescued passengers and the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance.

The agency says mechanisms must be put in place to assess the needs of and solutions for different groups, including access to UNHCR for those in need of international protection.

UNHCR Spokesperson Andre Mahecic says repeated tragedies at sea also demonstrate the need for a coordinated regional response to distress and rescue at sea.

“ To help move this process forward, UNHCR says it is facilitating discussions between interested governments and international organizations at a regional meeting on irregular movements by sea to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia in March.  Amid continuing news reports of boats being pushed back to sea by some countries, UNHCR also urges States in the region to keep their borders open to people in need of international protection, to uphold the principle of non-refoulement and to offer them temporary assistance and protection until durable solutions can be found.”

Duration: 30″

Mahecic says UNHCR recognizes the regional dimension of the irregular movements of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants by sea. But genuine cooperative regional approaches that promote sharing of burdens and responsibility could offer asylum seekers and refugees an alternative to dangerous and exploitative boat journeys.

UNHCR says it is offering its expertise and good offices to play a constructive role in this process.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration:  1’29″

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