Christmas Day deaths of Haitians spur call for action from IOM's chief

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William Swing

The Christmas Day drowning of at least 18 Haitian migrants when their sailboat capsized off the Turks and Caicos Islands, has re-focused attention on the crisis of “desperation migration,” according to Ambassador William Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration.

He offered "… condolences and deep sympathy to the families of those affected by this terrible incident,” but noted "we must also find ways to stem the root causes bringing people to risk all by taking to the high seas in flimsy craft.”

The latest deaths occurred when a marine police unit of Turks and Caicos (a British Territory), intercepted an overcrowded fishing sloop and was towing it to shore. The Haitian vessel capsized as it approached land, leading to a frantic pre-dawn search and rescue attempt by the police. A 10-year-old child remains unaccounted for after authorities rescued 32 migrants and recovered the bodies of 18 Haitians in crystal clear water only 150 meters from land.

Ambassador Swing said “The tragedy underscores the urgency of the international community taking decisive action to address the causes of what can only be described as ‘desperation migration”.

The tragedy pushes the global number of migrants who have died this year while attempting to cross a border and find a new life to a record 2,378, according to IOM figures. The agency said this number is conservative and does not include many unrecorded deaths of African migrants who succumb while crossing the Horn of Africa or Sinai desert for example.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’24″

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