United Nations: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the death of hundreds of migrants off the coast of Libya as a "humanitarian tragedy" that should shock the global conscience, saying the Mediterranean is fast becoming a sea of misery with more than twice as many migrants dying at sea in the past year than on the ill-fated Titanic.
He said the "truly titanic humanitarian tragedy" highlights yet again the need to address the plight of migrants, to crack down on the criminals who exploit the "most vulnerable" and to strengthen rescue capacity in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
"The death of hundreds of migrants off the coast of Libya is not only deeply saddening – it should shock the global conscience. The Mediterranean is fast becoming a sea of misery for thousands of migrants. More than twice as many migrants have died at sea in the past year than on the Titanic," Ban said here yesterday.
Noting that Italy, Greece and Malta have borne the biggest burden in terms of rescue operations, he urged the European Union to show solidarity by accelerating its support.
"Record numbers of people are fleeing war and persecution. As migrants face discrimination, violence and exploitation, they urgently need our protection during their hour of greatest need," he said, adding that the tragedy highlights the great peril that humanitarian and development workers face across the world.
Following the loss of about 700 people after a boat carrying migrants capsized and sank over the weekend, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has urged EU governments to take a "more sophisticated, more courageous and less callous approach" to coping with the flows of migrants towards Europe.
"As we learn of yet more men, women and children who have lost their lives in their search for better and safer lives abroad, I am horrified but not surprised by this latest tragedy. These deaths and the hundreds of others that preceded them in recent months were sadly predictable," he said.
"The (deaths) are the result of a continuing failure of governance accompanied by a monumental failure of compassion," he said in a statement.
Stopping the rescue of migrants in distress has not led to less migration, nor to less smuggling, but merely to more deaths at sea, he said.
Europe is "turning its back" on some of the most vulnerable migrants in the world, and risks turning the Mediterranean into a "vast cemetery" rather than acknowledge that European economies and societies need the low-skilled labour that migrants are desperate to contribute, and that refugees have a right to seek asylum, Zeid said.
"It is time for politicians to show courageous leadership on this issue, instead of joining the mindless clamour for ever harsher deterrence policies. Not only do such policies not work, they operate at an unacceptable cost in terms of human lives," the High Commissioner said.
"The unnecessary deaths over the past few days are just the beginning. Europe must act innovatively to save lives," said François Crepeau, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.