Italy declares a state of migratory emergency to deal with the influx of migrants

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The UN reported on Wednesday that the first quarter of 2023, from January to March, saw the highest number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean since 2017, with 441 lives lost while attempting to reach Europe. The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) believes that the figure of 441 deaths is an underestimate, as more deaths may have gone unrecorded. The IOM warned that the high number of deaths shows that these tragedies have become normalized, and that delays and gaps in search and rescue operations by States are costing human lives. Over the Easter weekend, 3,000 migrants arrived in Italy, bringing the total number of arrivals since the start of the year to 31,192 people, according to the IOM.

So far this year, at least 127 people have died in at least six incidents due to delays in search and rescue operations. In one instance, at least 73 migrants died during a rescue operation that received no response. The IOM has also observed a significant decline in search and rescue efforts by non-governmental organizations in recent months. Antonio Vitorino, the head of the IOM, called the continuing humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean unacceptable and emphasized that saving lives at sea is a legal obligation for states. The “Missing Migrants” project of the UN is also looking into several cases of missing boats where no search and rescue operations have been carried out, and some 300 people are still missing. Vitorino called for proactive coordination among states in search and rescue efforts and urged states to work together to reduce the loss of human life along migration routes.

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