UN envoy for Syria says migrant boat incident devastating

UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen said Sunday that the migrant boat incident off Syria that has left dozens of people dead is devastating.

“It is devastating that dozens died after a boat sank off the Syrian coast — men, women, children and the elderly among the victims,” said Pedersen in a statement, adding that the deaths could have been avoided.

There is an urgent need to do more to address the root causes of these movements, including the conflict in Syria and the economic crisis in Lebanon, and to protect the most vulnerable so that they are not compelled to make such difficult choices, said Pedersen.

Human bodies began to be found on Thursday after the boat carrying illegal migrants from Lebanon capsized. By Sunday, reports put the death toll at 94. The boat set off from Lebanon on Tuesday.

A UN spokesman said Friday that the incident was heartbreaking.

“It’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking, and worst of all, we know these types of incidents are actually preventable — if countries managed the flow of people, of migration, of refugees, in a coordinated manner, if the movement of people was not left to the hands of criminal gangs and of smugglers,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

This is something that has been very much in the mind and in the heart of Guterres dating from his time as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the spokesman, adding: “We send our deep, deep and heartfelt condolences to all the families of the bereaved.” ■

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