After 160 people were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in the first week in January, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR on Friday appealed to countries to help save lives by offering more resettlement places. Around 277,000 refugees are in need of resettlement in 15 priority asylum and transit countries along the Central Mediterranean migrant route but UNHCR has received offers of just 13,000 places in 2018-2019 after an urgent September appeal for 40,000 places, the agency said.
“Most of these are part of regular established global resettlement programmes and only a few represent additional places,” it said. UNHCR also urged nations to offer other safe alternatives to protection for refugees, including through family reunification. Since November, UNHCR has evacuated hundreds of vulnerable refugees, the vast majority children and women, from Libya to Niger, the agency said.
“For unaccompanied children, a solution in the best interest of each child will be identified, while adults go through UNHCR regular processing with a view to identifying solutions for them, including resettlement.” UNHCR relaunched its call for a “comprehensive” approach to protect migrants and refugees who leave their homelands and set off on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean.
“These efforts should include building or strengthening protection capacity and livelihood support in countries of first asylum, providing more regular and safe ways for refugees through legal pathways such as resettlement and family reunification, and addressing the root causes and drivers of refugee displacement,” said the agency.