United Nations Headquarters, New York, 6 May 2015: IFRC Vice-President Francesco Rocca - Remarks to the press

Publié: 7 mai 2015

Good afternoon to all and thank you so much for your participation.

First of all I’d like to thank Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his time and his words. This morning has been a very important moment for me and for the issue of migration because we had the opportunity to talk about the same concerns and we agree that international community has to do more. I presented the Secretary Geneal the highest award of the Italian Red Cross (and) a t-shirt of a famous campaign of the Italian Red Cross “No human being is illegal”. And from this message I want to start my statement today.

Over 5,000 people are believed to have lost their lives attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean in the last 18 months. This makes these waters the most dangerous border in the world. This should trigger action, commitment and support.

Just two days ago, another 10 migrants did not make it. And today another 40 migrants are thought to have lost their lives. A piece of news that has made less noise in the media than the shipwreck of 18 April, in which 400 people died, but which left us again shocked and angry.

Because together with that capsized boat, our soul has sunk as well.

Since the beginning of 2015, over 35,000 migrants from North Africa and the Middle East have embarked on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea towards European shores, risking their lives on unsafe vessels.

The most appropriate way to mitigate an exodus abroad is to ensure conditions of security and dignity at home. This should be at the heart of any strategy, but we must not be naive about its ability to produce instant results. Many of the world’s most violent conflicts, such as those in Syria, Iraq or South Sudan, are far from resolution. Some of the world's most difficult political contexts, such as in the Horn of Africa, will not change because of aid.

People will continue to flee desperate situations and inaction will only lead to more suffering. It will mean more harrowing tales of exploitation and abuse, culminating in the terrifying and deadly journey across the Mediterranean. So we listen to a lot of options from the EU to stop this trafficking, but we’re not sure that the solution is bombing the vessels.

We believe once again that the imperative has to be humanitarian action. We should stop looking just at the issue of security. People who are fleeing wars and conflicts will try other routes. We can close this route from Libya, but as evidenced by the tragedy of Rhodes these past days, there are other routes open to these desperate people who will continue to try to escape.

For example, we cannot exhibit signs that read “Bring back our girls' and then pretend that a mother has no right to run away from a dangerous situation and look for a better solution for her children. We cannot think that the flow from the Horn of Africa will magically stop just because we shot down and sunk vessels. We ask that there is an action from our institutions that put the human being in the centre and stop labelling them as “illegal”.

Two weeks ago, European leaders held a summit in Brussels and committed to increasing the search and rescue capacities of FRONTEX (the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union).

While this is welcome, it is not enough. Its scope is limited and is not the same as a dedicated search and rescue operation which would cover the entire Mediterranean. The summit was just the beginning. We need to build on it to develop asylum policies which are forward-looking and firmly based on the principles of humanity, solidarity, and respect for human rights. This will mean legal protection to deter exploitation along the well-known migration routes.

This in turn will require international collaboration between countries of origin, transit and destination.

Over the past three days, in Sicily and Calabria, the Italian Red Cross has delivered humanitarian assistance to more than 7,000 people rescued by the Italian Coast Guard off the Libyan coast. In Italy, Red Cross staff and volunteers are present in every port, providing first aid, food, drinking water, psychosocial and logistic support.

For this reason, finally, I want to thank all the volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, but on my side, as President of the Italian Red Cross, I want to say thank you to my volunteers for their efforts and for their humanitarian approach to the migration issue.