London/Vienna, 04 March 2015 - We must act to stop the horrific treatment of migrants by criminal smugglers said Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), today at an international meeting on the movement of irregular migrants by sea.
He told his audience that overcrowded boats, makeshift vessels capsizing and sinking; unguided cargo ships abandoned, with migrants left to their fate at sea; women, men and children drowning or dying of hypothermia were part of a global tragedy.
"We cannot allow desperate people, escaping conflict and humanitarian disasters, to fall prey to organized crime. We need urgent and resolute action to save lives and punish the criminals," said Mr. Fedotov.
To help counter criminal networks and safeguard the rights of migrants, Mr. Fedotov said UNODC has developed a new strategy that would contribute to overall international efforts in the Mediterranean. He said the strategy was founded on five essential pillars: research and analysis, strengthening countries' abilities to develop effective criminal justice responses, promoting cooperation, building coordination and protecting migrant rights.
So far, he said, 185 countries have signed the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and 141 have signed its protocol on migrant smuggling, but Mr. Fedotov said that full implementation of these instruments was needed.
Mr. Fedotov was speaking in London at a meeting initiated by the International Maritime Organization on irregular migrants at sea and also attended by International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Development Programme (UNDP), and UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS).
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