At least 62 people are reported to have died following a shipwreck off the coast of southern Italy yesterday, and dozens more are injured. Approximately 170 people are thought to have been aboard the boat which sank in rough seas after leaving Turkey several days ago. 

Harlem Desir, IRC’s Senior Vice President, Europe, says,

“It’s heartbreaking that this latest shipwreck in the Mediterranean has cost the lives of at least 62 men, women and children, many of whom were reportedly fleeing countries in the grip of grave humanitarian crises such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

This tragedy is yet another stark demonstration that building walls, pushing people back from Europe’s borders and obstructing the life-saving work of NGO search and rescue vessels are only driving desperate people to risk their lives on even more dangerous routes. 

More than 25,000 people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean since 2014, and upwards of 225 already this year. It’s clear that the continued inability of European member states to put in place a fair and humane EU asylum and migration system is not only failing people on the move, but is contributing to these drownings. 

It’s time for the EU to forge a new approach that puts humanity and dignity front and centre when dealing with the desperate situation in the Mediterranean, and beyond. This will involve working towards a mandatory, permanent and predictable solidarity mechanism between EU states that is centred on relocating people from their country of first arrival. The EU must also cooperate with NGOs conducting life-saving operations. This must go hand-in-hand with more safe, regular routes to protection in Europe, so people are not forced to risk their lives along these treacherous journeys in the first place.”

Notes to Editors

In Italy, the IRC works to protect refugees and asylum seekers, with a focus on women, unaccompanied children and those requiring psychosocial support. The IRC works with partners to enhance their capacity to swiftly identify trafficking survivors, and strengthen their access to legal assistance and support. The online platform provides clear and timely information for refugees and asylum seekers in need of local support services, empowering them to make informed decisions about their lives.