UNHCR wants European governments to allow immigrants to dock

Would-be immigrants stand on a coastguard vessel as they arrive at Tarifa's harbour on August 11, 2014, after being rescued off the Spanish Coast. Spain's coastguard today rescued more than 260 sub-Saharan African migrants crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on small boats. Many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempt to cross into Spain from Morocco, either by sea through the Strait of Gibraltar or overland, via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the extreme north of Morocco. AFP PHOTO / MARCOS MORENO (Photo credit should read MARCOS MORENO/AFP/Getty Images)
Illegal immigrants are transferred to Tripoli’s naval base in Tripoli, Libya, on June 21, 2018. Image courtesy: Xinhua

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has sent an appeal to the European governments to allow 507 people recently rescued from the Mediterranean and now stranded at sea to leave the vessels.

151 people would-be migrants remain on board the Open Arms while 356 more are aboard the Ocean Viking.

The UN agency for refugees said the migrants aboard the two vessels are survivors of appalling abuses in Libya and are from refugee-producing countries.

The agency added the people on board are in need of humanitarian assistance and some have already expressed an intention to seek international protection.

“This is a race against time, storms are coming and conditions are only going to get worse. To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya on the high seas in this weather would be to inflict suffering upon suffering. They must be immediately allowed to dock, and allowed to receive much-needed humanitarian aid,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean.

Many Europeans leaders expressed their shock at the events last month when more than 50 people died in an airstrike on a detention centre in Tajoura, Libya, and as many as 150 others died in the largest Mediterranean shipwreck of 2019.

These sentiments must now be translated into meaningful solidarity with people fleeing from Libya. This includes providing access to territory and asylum procedures to people seeking international protection.

In comparison to the Central Mediterranean, far more people are arriving, and far fewer people dying, on the Western and Eastern Mediterranean routes. This even as nearly 600 are reported to have died or gone missing in the Central Mediterranean.