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IMO calls for crackdown on 'humanitarian tragedy' of immigrant smuggling

The IMO sec-gen Koji Sekimizu has called for a concerted effort to halt people trafficking across the Meditteranean, following 3,000 reported migrant deaths in 2014.

"We do not seek to prevent migration," said IMO secretary general Koji Sekimizu. "People have the human right to migrate. But it is time to stop illegal, unregulated passage arranged by people smugglers. Not only do they put the lives of the migrants in danger, they also endanger the rescue services and merchant shipping which take part in the rescue operations.

"Something needs to be done against the smugglers or the situation will not improve. It is placing an intolerable strain on rescue services and on merchant vessels."

According to reports, 200,000 migrants were rescued in 2014 and 3,000 died. "Even with the contribution of the Italian Navy and Italian Coast Guard, more than 600 merchant ships were diverted last year to go to the support of persons in distress at sea. This is beyond acceptable limits and without the Italian efforts many more would have died. The efforts of Italian rescuers – and others – are greatly appreciated but we have reached the point where we need to focus more effort on the prevention side.

"This is a serious issue for IMO and a humanitarian tragedy, said Sekimizu. "I firmly believe that there is scope for greater efforts by the international community to better manage the process of migration."

In March, IMO is set to host an inter-agency meeting, entitled Travelling of Migrants at Sea, and comprising the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 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), Interpol and other organizations, as well as members of the Global Migration Group, interested Member States and shipping industry bodies.

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