United Nations to Boost Migration Efforts

Gilbert Houngbo of the International Labour Organization
Gilbert Houngbo of the International Labour Organization

By MarEx 2015-03-09 18:37:53

United Nations agencies met last week at IMO and agreed to establish a mechanism to enhance existing inter-agency communication about the flood of migrants taking to sea in their attempt to leave Africa.

The agencies are concerned about the loss of life, injury, trauma and serious human rights violations affecting migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Building on the ‘Joint Statement on Protection at Sea in the Twenty-First Century’, that was agreed during the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ Dialogue on Protection Challenges, held in Geneva on 10 December 2014, it was agreed to establish an interim, informal mechanism for enhancing inter-agency communication that would facilitate operational-level communication.

Although precise details of the mechanism are yet to be finalized, it was envisaged that it might, for example, consider: the establishment of joint databases to share and collate information and statistics on irregular movements and suspect vessels; quantifying the effects of irregular and unsafe crossings on the shipping industry and improving maritime situational awareness.

Speaking at the meeting, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu said “The issue of mixed migration by sea, including irregular migration, has been a serious concern for decades – if not longer. But, in recent years, it has reached epidemic proportions, to the extent where the whole system for coping with such migrants is being stretched up to, and sometimes beyond, its breaking point,” and called for a collective effort to bring about a solution to the problem of thousands of lives being placed in danger at sea.

Estimates put the number of migration attempts in 2014 at more than 218,000, with more than 3,500 deaths.

Speaking for the International Organization for Migration, Bernd Hemingway said, “Never before have we seen so many crisis situations and emergencies that displace people in huge numbers. There are immense ‘push’ factors which encourage people to move from one country to another. For us, contact with the other agencies, particularly on the maritime side, fills a gap that we are able to close now.”

Gilbert Houngbo of the International Labour Organization stressed the importance of decent work as a factor in reducing the need for migration and added, “I believe that together, equipped with our distinct yet complementary mandates and tools, we can help affected stakeholders face this increasingly growing challenge.”

NGO Human Rights at Sea welcomes the news of a more collegiate response to the issue of mixed migration announced by the IMO. “The root cause of the current migrant surge is, however, one that can only be solved through the likes of regional stabilization of the numerous Middle East states in crisis and which are subject to internal armed conflict,” says founder David Hammond. “Greater co-ordination should also be aligned with established EU organizations such as the Fundamental Rights Agency and the numerous NGOs working tirelessly to alleviate suffering at sea and on land. Human Rights at Sea urges the UN entities involved in this initiative to ensure that civil society organizations and NGOs are also given a seat at the table and that their input is valued.”

Senior representatives from the following agencies participated in the meeting: International Labour Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).