Authorities in Southern Europe are being “stretched to breaking point” in tackling illegal migration warns Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Koji Sekimizu.
At a “High-Level Meeting to Address Unsafe Mixed Migration by Sea” hosted by the IMO this week Sekimizu said the issue had reached “epidemic proportions”.
In 2014 more than 200,000 people were rescued and 3,000 died in unsafe and irregular sea passages in the Mediterranean. Some 650 merchant ships were diverted to come to the aid of those in distress.
“Coastguards, navies and the rescue infrastructure as a whole are all being stretched to breaking point,” he stated.
“They have barely been able to deal with the tidal wave of people needing to be picked up from the sea; and it must never be forgotten that the strenuous efforts they make to rescue the thousands of persons in distress come at the price of great risk to themselves and at considerable cost to their countries.”
He said there was a need, in collaboration with member states concerned, to strive to develop a mechanism under which migration was managed and sustainable.
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