Increased regular migration channels needed to stem future tragedies, Volker Turk says as hundreds remain missing after overloaded vessel sinks off Greece
The loss of dozens of lives after a migrant boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this week is a “horrific tragedy,” the UN human rights chief said on Friday.
“What happened on Wednesday underscores the need to investigate people smugglers and human traffickers and ensure they are brought to justice,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk urged in a statement.
A migrant boat sunk off southwestern Greece early on Wednesday. While over 100 passengers were rescued, nearly 500 remain missing in the surrounding Mediterranean waters and 78 bodies have been recovered, according to UN officials.
To prevent future tragedies, countries need to “open up more regular migration channels, enhance responsibility-sharing, ensure arrangements for the safe and timely disembarkation of all people rescued at sea, and establish independent monitoring and oversight of migration-related policies and practices,” Turk said, expressing his condolences to the victims’ families.
An international non-governmental migration monitor, Watch the Med-Alarm Phone, said it contacted the Greek authorities at 5.53 p.m. (1453GMT) on Tuesday and sent the coordinates of the overloaded vessel, according to the investigative news outlet Solomon.
The NGO also informed authorities that there were some 750 people on board, including women and children, and provided them with a phone number to contact the passengers.
The coast guard claimed the boat did not request help and rejected offers for assistance.