In face of migrant and refugee deaths in Mediterranean, Red Cross delivers humanitarian response

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
April 24, 2015

IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy, meets with some of the survivors of the shipwreck that claimed the lives of hundreds of people on the weekend. On the evening of April 18, a boat carrying an estimated 800 migrants capsized about 180 kilometres south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Twenty-eight survivors were pulled out of the water and the rest of the migrants are feared dead. This April alone, at least five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The total death toll is an estimated 1,200 people.

These tragic accidents draw attention once again to the worrying escalation of the humanitarian crisis in this region and to the plight of migrants in particular. The risks and challenges migrants face are tremendous, including losing contact with family members, exploitation, abuse and violence. Migrants travelling by sea account for the highest number of deaths among smuggled migrants.

“Every time a boat sinks a part of humanity drowns and we are haunted by the knowledge that it could have been prevented,” International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy said in a statement on the IFRC website. “Search and rescue operations need to be scaled-up, but much more can also be done, before people make the decision to put their lives in danger, placing them in the hands of people smugglers.”

The Italian Red Cross continues to work tirelessly in the main ports of southern Italy (in the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Apulia) to meet the humanitarian needs of thousands of migrants rescued by the Coast Guards in the Strait of Sicily and off the coast of Libya.

Week after week, thousands of migrants are saved and brought to the southern ports of Italy in Lampedusa, Augusta, Trapani, Messina, Porto Empedocle, Agrigento (Sicily), Reggio Calabria (Calabria) and Taranto (Apulia). So far this year, the whole of Italy has seen over 24,065 migrant arrivals.

How the Red Cross is responding
The Italian Red Cross is engaged in the following activities in all regions of Italy affected by the ongoing crisis:
  • Distributing hygiene kits to the migrants as soon as they reach the harbour
  • Providing migrants with medical assistance upon landing
  • Providing Restoring Family Links (RFL) services
  • Providing migrants with food and non-food items in the transit centre
Since the beginning of the year, over 31,500 people have made crossings to Italy and Greece – the most frequent destinations for migrants from North Africa and the Middle East – taking the Mediterranean Sea route. It is anticipated that these numbers will increase rapidly as weather conditions in the Mediterranean improve.

Canadians who wish to support Red Cross efforts in addressing the issue of migration globally are encouraged to make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross International Disaster Relief Fund. This fund allows us to accelerate our response in disasters and directly help the most vulnerable during times of emergencies.

Your support provides us with dedicated funds to respond immediately following a disaster with essential supplies and trained personnel, so that we are able to save lives and ease suffering.

Migrant and Refugee Services in Canada
The Canadian Red Cross provides a range of migrant and refugee services in Canada and is committed to helping new Canadian arrivals find the resources they need. The Canadian Red Cross Restoring Family Links program helps people in Canada re-establish contact with immediate family members after separation due to armed conflict, natural disaster, migration and other humanitarian crises.

Other programs include  24/7 emergency telephone services for those in need of immediate shelter assistance as well as SmartStart First Aid Training for those whose first language may not be English or French.

Learn more about how the Canadian Red Cross assists and supports newly arrived migrants and refugees.