UN agencies call for action on human trafficking networks

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Two UN agencies want more action in dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks following the deaths of 27 migrants off Mauritania in north-west Africa.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, expressed sorrow over the incident, which they said was avoidable.

The migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and including Guineans, were on a boat from Dakhla, Western Sahara.

The vessel was heading for the Canary Islands when it had engine trouble. Passengers were left stranded and dehydrated.

A lone survivor was brought to Nouadhibou after rescue by the coastguard on Thursday and is receiving medical and psychological support.

“Despite COVID-19 mobility restrictions, migrants still undertake risky journeys”, said Laura Lungarotti, IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission.

“We continue to provide humanitarian assistance with the Mauritanian government and civil society, the need for predictable rescue and assistance procedures is constant. This is more important while public health measures are in place”.

IOM and UNHCR urged governments to step up efforts to dismantle smuggling networks and increasing safe and legal paths to asylum and migration.

“These deaths are preventable and avoidable,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean.

“We must take action to target smugglers and traffickers who make false promises of safe passage to Europe to migrants and refugees.”

“At the same time, we need to offer effective protection and services to people in countries of asylum and transit to strengthen their socio-economic inclusion and integration with host communities, so they don’t feel the desperation that drives them to risk their lives on these desperate journeys.”