UN anti-crime chief calls for pact to stem deadly illegal migrant smuggling from Africa

11 July 2006

With 200,000 Africans attempting to enter Europe clandestinely every year and untold numbers dying in the process, the top United Nations anti-crime official has called on a meeting of European and African ministers to create a pact to combat migrant smuggling.

“For every person who reaches Europe, several others have never made it,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told the Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development taking place in Rabat, Morocco.

“Europe will never see the untold numbers who die in the Sahara, who are left penniless in transit countries for from home, who drown when their dilapidated boats capsize, or who waste their lives in North African prisons,” he added, calling for the adoption of an ‘irregular migration pact’ to block smuggling routes, improve information sharing among law enforcement officials and raise awareness of the dangers of migrant smuggling.

“Irregular migration is mostly profiting criminals at the expense of people’s lives and dreams, and giving legal migration a bad name,” he noted.

To stem the flow of irregular migrants from Africa to Europe, Mr. Costa underlined the need to address some of the root causes of why people are risking this exodus in the first place – factors like underdevelopment, crime and corruption. To combat the smuggling, he urged States to ratify the UN Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.

UNODC estimates that some 200,000 Africans attempt to enter Europe clandestinely every year. Recent high-profile incidents include migrants coming ashore in the Canary Islands, Malta and the Pelagi Islands in the Mediterranean, or trying to enter Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mellila in Morocco.


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