A rescue mission from the EU-programme Trition is seen being carried out here in 2014. The missions are conducted by Frontex - the EUs border security agency. Photo Credit: Frontex.
A rescue mission from the EU-programme Trition is seen being carried out here in 2014. The missions are conducted by Frontex - the EUs border security agency. Photo Credit: Frontex.

DRC calls for comprehensive solutions for Protection at Sea

More than 59 million people are displaced due to conflicts and persecution. But they are part of an even larger and increasing number of people moving in mixed migratory flows, including a dramatically high number of people risking their lives at sea. Ahead of the UNCHR Annual Consultations with NGOs July 1-3, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) calls for comprehensive regional solutions.
 
 

More than 59 million people are displaced due to conflicts and persecution. But they are part of an even larger and increasing number of people moving in mixed migratory flows, including a dramatically high number of people risking their lives at sea. Ahead of the UNCHR Annual Consultations with NGOs July 1-3, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) calls for comprehensive regional solutions.

2015 has shown an increase in deaths in the Mediterranean and arrivals at the borders of countries like Italy and Greece. Additionally, mixed migration on boats in the Bay of Bengal has been part of what has been labelled as ping pong between governments for thousands of people fleeing their homeland. Protection at Sea has its own session at the UNHCR Annual Consultations with DRC as speaker and moderator, and ahead of this, DRC calls for responsibility sharing on protection at sea.

"First and foremost, we must focus on the saving of lives. Timely rescue and safe disembarkation, regardless of status must be ensured. And this calls for solidarity and not least responsibility sharing. No one can change this situation on their own. Some are trying, and they are indeed saving lives but we need a paradigm shift and focus on the protection of people instead of protection of borders. The world must stand together in solidarity," says International Director of the DRC, Ann Mary Olsen.

The complexity of mixed migration flows calls for a more comprehensive look at what is needed in terms of protection of people on the run, whether it is due to conflict, persecution or other reasons. DRC is present and operational in more than 30 conflict-affected and unstable countries around the world producing mixed migration flows as well as the main countries of transit for mixed migrants.

"Protection at sea starts and ends with protection on land. It is part of a cycle that begins in the country of origin, then transit, and continues to the country of destination. Further, in finding solutions to protection at sea, we must acknowledge that all groups; asylum seekers, refugees and migrants move for a variety of reasons, and their situation as well as status may change along the way."

"Hence, a one-size fits all solution will not resolve the complexity of mixed migratory flows. And restrictions on regular routes and legal channels or building fences do not stop or limit mixed migration movements. Confronted with increased restrictive measures, people choose alternative routes and embark on more risky, hazardous journeys, including at sea," says Ann Mary Olsen.

DRC calls for a range of actions ahead of the Annual Consultations:

- Governments implement existing LEGAL frameworks

- Full and equal access of mixed migrants to humanitarian assistance and protection

- End the use of detention and other punitive measures

- Governments respect non-refoulement

- In country of origin, the international community prioritizes finding political solutions to conflicts and increasing efforts to address the root causes of mixed migration.

"The Danish Refugee Council welcomes the UNHCR High Commissioner's initiative to discuss protection at sea challenges during the Annual Consultations in Geneva; and we are looking forward to presenting our experiences and views for a range of leading actors during the consultations. The protection of mixed migrants is a serious and increasing global challenge and only through mutual efforts and responsibility sharing can we hope to address it with adequate responses," says Ann Mary Olsen.

Read more about UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs here.

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