The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has criticized the limitations within the EU to organizations that help migrants and refugees and has questioned, in particular, the limits to those who carry out rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
The UN Human Rights chief has recalled that there are about 50 proceedings open against NGOs in EU countries, mostly in Italy. As of today, there are only four ships deployed in the central Mediterranean, while others remain blocked.
“My office has repeatedly expressed its concerns about these measures, as well as related actions of intimidation, harassment, obstruction or denial of access,” said Bachelet, who fears for the repercussions that political decisions may have “for the safety of people on one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 200 migrants and refugees have lost their lives this year in the Mediterranean while trying to reach the shores of southern Europe, of which some 170 are on the route connecting Libya and Tunisia with Italy and Malta.
The NGO Alarm Phone, which provides assistance to boats in distress, has alerted that it had lost contact early Friday morning with a boat in which about 150 people were traveling, so it has asked the Italian and Maltese authorities to proceed to search for them.
The NGO ship Sea Watch also confirmed Friday the rescue off the coast of Libya of 45 migrants and refugees, including 15 minors – 13 of them unaccompanied. “They are safe now on our vessel and receiving medical assistance,” the organization explained on its Twitter account.
MESSAGES TO HUNGARY AND CROATIA
Bachelet has also used her speech before the UN Human Rights Council to publicly affront the work of governments such as Hungary, which “has criminalized the provision of assistance to migrants” and would be committing “serious violations of Human Rights” at the border.
“I am gravely concerned by the fact that the Hungarian police have carried out some 5,000 returns to Serbia in the last two months alone, in violation of international human rights obligations and EU laws,” said the former Chilean president.
On the other hand, in the case of Croatia, Bachelet criticized the restrictions on visits by national and international organizations to border areas with Bosnia, from which “credible allegations of human rights violations” have also been received.