By Andreea Anca, IFRC
If reports are confirmed, this past week is the deadliest period for the sea migrants in recent years, as more than 750 people from the Middle East and Africa are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to reach Europe.
Eye-witnesses claim one recent tragic episode – in which more than 500 migrants who refused the order of angry smugglers to move to a smaller, unseaworthy boat – were drowned last week some 300 miles off Malta.
Another report claims that 200 people are missing, presumed drowned, in another incident off Libya.
Meanwhile in Italy, where 17,000 migrants arrived in the last few weeks, the Italian Red Cross provides first aid, medical assistance, psycho-social support on daily basis to those who arrive on old, overcrowded fishing boats, which at times don’t have enough fuel to reach Europe.
Safety and dignity
These latest accounts of deliberate deadly action against migrants, shed new light on the need to improve the protection of migrants, irrespective of their legal status. This imperative is reflected in the migration policy of the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which was recently reiterated in the Florence Call for Action, a document issued at the end of the 9th European Regional Conference of the IFRC, earlier this year.
The Call for Action encourages effective cooperation between countries of origin, transit, and destination that would ensure the dignity and safety of all migrants. For the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, this translates into providing humanitarian assistance in the form of first aid, medical and legal support, accommodation and food, social and psychosocial support, restoring family links and other essential services.
The Florence Call for Action also draws attention to the implementation of the Resolution Number 3 of the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, adopted by 187 National Societies and the 194 states parties to the Geneva Conventions in 2011.
Both documents addressed two crucial issues for the protection of migrants and for the work of the National Societies: ensuring effective and safe access for National Societies to all migrants and establishing national procedures at international borders.
The resolutions and the IFRC policy reflect the need to recognize that the phenomenon of migration is not a passing phase but a complex issue that will present long-term humanitarian challenges to organizations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.