IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu has welcomed the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of a UN Security Council resolution which authorizes Member States to intercept vessels suspected of migrant smuggling off the Libyan coast.
“I welcome the United Nations Security Council’s clear affirmation of the necessity to put an end to the recent proliferation of, and endangerment of lives by, the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of persons in the Mediterranean Sea and the strong measures advocated to address these criminal activities,” Mr. Sekimizu said.
UN Security Council Resolution 2240 (2015), adopted on 9 October, authorizes Member States, for a period of one year, and in accordance with international law, to inspect on the high seas off the coast of Libya any vessels that they have reasonable grounds to believe had been, were being, or imminently would be used by organized criminal enterprises for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya, including inflatable boats, rafts and dinghies.
Since the current migrant crisis in the Mediterranean started in early 2014, Mr. Sekimizu has consistently called for concerted action to be taken to tackle people smugglers.
Echoing his recent statement to the side event on migration, held on 30 September 2015 and convened by the United Nations Secretary-General during the High-Level segment of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Sekimizu stated:
“As the United Nations specialized agency with the remit for safety of life at sea, IMO closely monitors the global crisis involving the unsafe transport of mixed migrants by sea and strongly condemns the criminals involved in people smuggling - sending completely unseaworthy ships to sea without the slightest consideration for the safety of those onboard. This disregard for even the most basic of the safety regulations embodied in the IMO regulatory regime has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. As any experienced mariner knows, even in calm weather, the sea is a dangerous place, and the risk of death and injury can only be properly mitigated through adherence to IMO standards. These grossly overloaded, unfit, unsafe vessels should never take to sea at all and should be stopped before they leave port.”
IMO has been addressing the issue of unsafe mixed migration by sea and the international maritime search and rescue (SAR) system in various fora, including the high-level inter-agency meeting hosted at IMO in March, and during IMO’s Legal and Maritime Safety Committees and the IMO Council. IMO also hosted a recent informal meeting to review the legal framework for the rescue of mixed migrants at sea.
Mr. Sekimizu added, “There is a clear recognition among IMO Member States that using the SAR system to respond to mass mixed migration was neither foreseen nor intended, and that although Governments and the merchant shipping industry will continue rescue operations, safe, legal, alternative pathways to migration must be developed, including safe, organized migration by sea, if necessary”.
The need for a sustainable solution to the problem of migrants being placed in distress in hope of rescue, to include a response which does not focus solely on the existing search and rescue system, was the topic of a letter from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) to IMO, which IMO Secretary-General Sekimizu forwarded to the Secretary-General of the United Nations prior to the 30 September side event on migration at the United Nations in New York.