The United Nations refugee agency on Monday called for an additional 40,000 resettlement places to be made available for refugees located in 15 priority African countries along the Central Mediterranean route.
“The movement of refugees and migrants towards Europe continues to take a devastating toll on human life,” UNHCR said,
“Since the beginning of the year, over 2,420 people are believed to have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe, with reports of many others perishing.”
The 15 priority countries of asylum identified along the central Mediterranean route are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia, UNHCR said.
“These 40,000 resettlement places, which will complement already existing commitments, will be crucial to help the most vulnerable refugees along the Central Mediterranean route,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“Adherence to UNHCR’s resettlement criteria, which puts the emphasis on vulnerability and protection needs, is also key,” he said, adding that “a very far from adequate” 6,700 refugees along the routes to Libya have been resettled this year up until now.
Of an estimated 277,000 refugees in need in the 15 priority countries, just six percent were offered relocation opportunities last year, Grandi noted.
At the height of the migrant crisis, European leaders agreed in September 2015 to relocate a total of 160,000 migrants “in clear need of international protection” from Italy and Greece to other EU countries over two years.
So far less than 28,000 people have been relocated in the face of fierce opposition from several Eastern European countries notably Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Romania also voted against the EU quota scheme, which was approved by a majority vote.