Several United Nations organizations have called for “urgent action” as two more shipwrecks off the coasts of Libya and Venezuela resulted in over a hundred deaths. While sailing the sea northeast of Libya’s capital, Ocean Viking, a rescue vessel used by SOS Mediterranee, came across numerous bodies near a small, overturned lifeboat. The NGO had been asking nearby countries to send help for two days before it capsized in late April, claiming 130 lives. Around the same time, a boat with 24 people sank in the Caribbean sea while on its way to Trinidad and Tobago. At least two did not survive the shipwreck, although this number will likely increase as the coast guard is still looking for 15 missing people.

These two tragedies are the latest on a long and continuously growing list of sea crosses turning deadly. Just days before SOS Mediterranee found the capsized boat off the coast of Tripoli, another carrying 40 refugees was thought to be lost at sea. In 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded close to 600 deaths in the (Central) Mediterranean, a popular but dangerous route taken by many African and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees in an attempt to reach Europe. This figure could be higher, IOM notes, as the lack of State resources has diminished their understanding of what happens at sea. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and IOM are calling for “urgent action” as refugees continue to drown at sea. Together, they released a statement in response to the shipwreck in the Mediterranean, asking “the international community to take urgent steps to end avoidable loss of lives at sea”. States should start their “search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean” back up again, increase “coordination with all rescue actors”, avoid sending refugees to “unsafe ports”, and create “a safe and predictable disembarkation mechanism.” In another joint press release issued soon after the two deaths in the Caribbean sea, the UNHCR and IOM emphasized the need for ‘safe and legal pathways’, especially considering the impact Covid-19 has had on many lives, as well as the closing of borders to stop the virus from spreading. Like those on the boats off Libya and Venezuela, refugees will continue being pushed across seas by the dangerous situation in their home countries.


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