Shipping has a crucial role in saving lives, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message shown at this morning’s IMO session on unsafe mixed migration by sea.
Ban Ki-moon said that the saving of lives “remains an urgent priority” and recognised the shipping industry’s and rescue services’ crucial role in this priority “often at considerable cost and danger to themselves”. However, he also recognised that “shipping and maritime rescue services are close to being overwhelmed. We need to find sustainable solutions,” he said.
Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to develop safer and “regular migration pathways”, and to address factors that “force people to risk their lives in this way”.
Ki-moon called for a comprehensive approach to the problem which would ensure lives are protected, international law upheld, while recognising the benefits of migration.
The ongoing pronouncements from states and humanitarian agencies have so far all called for action and back the idea of a comprehensive solution.
But Malta’s head of delegation said that “the time for statements is over”. The delegation opened by recognising the “trauma” that seafarers – both professional rescuers and merchant seafarers – are experiencing and that “will be with them for the rest of their lives” and not just immediately after the rescues, especially when rescuers themselves lose their lives during rescues.
Malta recognised that the problem is far beyond the remit of the IMO alone, but that the IMO has a big part to play in it.
Delegates heard that at least 2,000 people had reportedly died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year, with 101,900 people successfully “smuggled”, according to statistics gathered by the International Organisation for Migration.
The Italian delegation recorded that 300 commercial ships of all flags have been re-routed to participate in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea this year to date, rescuing in total 15,000 people.
Maritime rescue regulation is a topic that will be debated today. Clarification of maritime regulation on what should be understood by the need for merchant ships to rescue ships in distress has been raised by Italy and is currently being addressed as the delegations make their statements. So far, the United States has urged caution on changing the law and said that “continued collaboration” with border control is required. The United Kingdom supports clarity on the law.