Refugee agency gives cautious welcome to EU plan on sea migrants

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Survivors of the deadly shipwreck at the weekend disembark from the Italian Coastguard ship in Sicily. Photo: UNHCR/F. Malavolta

The European Union's announcement that it's working on a plan to prevent more migrants drowning at sea received a cautious welcome from the UN on Tuesday.

Volker Turk, who's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said that the EU's 10-point proposal was "a good beginning".

But he said that there was too much focus on tackling the people-traffickers and too little emphasis on how to protect vulnerable migrants.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The Assistant High Commissioner spoke of a crisis "playing out on Europe's doorstep" as he briefed journalists in Geneva.

And although Volker Turk welcomed the initial 10-point plan issued by the EU on Monday evening in the wake of Saturday's Mediterranean boat tragedy, he said there was "no quick fix" to the trafficking problem.

"This is a very good beginning…there is mention for example about resettlement, there is mention of about intra-European Union support for Italy and Greece, there is mention of a reallocation scheme, the devil is in the detail, we need to know what concrete commitments are going to be put on the table, when it comes to humanitarian admission, legal alternatives to migration, legal alternatives to migration, legal alternatives for refugees to arrive here…"

The EU released its plan on Monday after more than 800 people drowned at sea after leaving Tripoli in Libya at the weekend.

UN refugee agency UNHCR said it had interviewed all of the survivors; 350 came from Eritrea, the remainder were from Syria, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, UN partner organisation the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it has had no news of two more migrant boats reportedly in distress in the Mediterranean.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’14″

 

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