Top UN officials slammed the international community on Tuesday for failing to fulfil commitments made a decade ago after a migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean killed hundreds.
“The world said never again,” Filippo Grandi and Amy Pope, the heads of the UN refugee and migration agencies said in a joint statement marking the 10th anniversary of the Lampedusa tragedy.
“We have not lived up to that commitment.”
In 2013, an overcrowded boat that had left from Libya carrying migrants sank off the coast of the small Italian island of Lampedusa, killing 368.
European leaders vowed to ensure that such a tragedy would never be repeated.
This year, the EU is on track to receive more than one million asylum seekers – the biggest number since 2015 and 2016, when the bloc saw a huge influx of migrants, mainly Syrians fleeing the war in their country.
“Our responsibility as a global community is to assist those who embark on perilous journeys in search of a safer and more dignified life for them and their families,” the UN officials said.
“Rarely does a week pass without stories from across the globe of tragedies and dramatic incidents, whether at sea or on land routes.”
They added that deaths in the Mediterranean Sea risk becoming “normalised” and underscored that saving lives is not optional; it is both a legal obligation and a "moral imperative".
The majority of the 127,000 migrants who arrived in Italy this year landed on Lampedusa, with a local population of 6,000 and a migrant-reception capacity of only 400. The surge of migrants sparked an outcry in Italy and ignited a heated debate in Europe on sharing responsibility for arrivals.
UN data revealed that the highest migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean were recorded in the first quarter of this year, with 2,517 people reported dead or missing while attempting to reach Europe.
Over the past 10 years, at least 22,341 have died on this route alone, according to the International Organisation for Migration.