IFRC: UN migration summit must stop world indifference to deaths and suffering along migration trails

Published: 18 September 2016

Geneva/New York, 18 September 2016—The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging world leaders to use tomorrow’s UN General Assembly Summit for Refugees and Migrants as an opportunity to stop indifference to deaths and suffering along migration trails.

“Every day, thousands of desperate women, children and men make a hazardous journey to find a new home,” said IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy, in New York to attend the 19 September Summit.

“Today, far too many people are dying during these journeys; drowning in the sea, collapsing in the desert, suffocating in car trunks or crowded trucks. Unaccompanied children are disappearing. People are falling victim to human traffickers, preyed upon by gangs, held and abused in illegal camps,” said Mr Sy.

“This death and suffering can be prevented and must be stopped. The world must come together to focus first on saving lives and respecting human dignity.”

Currently, there are an estimated 244 million migrants around the world, including 50 million children. Of these, an estimated 65.3 million are considered “forced migrants”, meaning they fled their homes as a result of factors such as conflict, violence or disaster. Over the past two years, almost 7,000 women, children and men have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean.

In the absence of a managed global approach geared to ensuring the safety and dignity of all people on the move, people are often forced to turn to traffickers and smugglers to facilitate the journey. Too often, the only available migration information comes from illegal sources that target and prey on vulnerable people.

“For people deciding to migrate, accurate and credible information can be life-saving,” said Mr Sy. “It can help them navigate or avoid some of the dangers they are likely to face, and empower them to make informed decisions. Ultimately, it will allow them to protect themselves and their families.”

The IFRC, through its 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and 17 million volunteers, supports vulnerable migrants at all points along migration routes, including through:

  • Essential medical care, food, shelter and other critical humanitarian assistance to people on the move
  • Language training, psychosocial support, job-ready skills development and other social inclusion programs in destination countries
  • Search and rescue – the IFRC, the Italian Red Cross and partner Migrant Offshore Aid Station have two search and rescue vessels currently operational in the Mediterranean
  • virtualvolunteer.org – a new web application designed to give people migrating, or considering migrating, reliable, accurate information about the journey, including risks and services they will encounter.
  • Awareness programmes to build trust and understanding and combat xenophobia in countries of origin, transit and destination.

For an overview of the IFRC’s migration activities and policy proposals, read the position paper for the UNGA Summit for Refugees and Migrants: One humanity: Safety and dignity for migrants

For interviews and further information please contact:

In Geneva