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UN Asks Egypt to Join European Countries in Hunting Down Human Traffickers

Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, the UN high commissioner for human rights. Getty Images

Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Getty Images

The United Nations’ new human rights chief has urged Egypt to join with European nations in hunting down the human traffickers who allegedly drowned up to 500 migrants in the Mediterranean by ramming their boat. He said the traffickers are likely guilty of “mass murder” and should be brought to justice.

Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said it was important to “end the prevailing impunity surrounding such crimes,” stressing that those seeking escape from chaos and warfare, such as the huge numbers fleeing Syria, had the right to seek refuge. He also demanded a wider rethink of the conditions that push so many thousands to undertake such risky voyages.

The first accounts on the events on a migrant sailing between Egypt and Malta emerged Monday when two Palestinian men, among a handful of survivors, told investigators from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that the people smugglers deliberately sank a boat carrying up to 500 people after the migrants refused to move to a smaller vessel. The story was later corroborated by other survivors, who said between 50 and 100 children might have died when the traffickers used their boat to ram the migrants’ craft.

Describing it as “a truly horrendous incident,” Zeid said in a statement: “It is the duty of states to investigate such atrocious crimes, bring the perpetrators to justice, and even more importantly to do more to prevent them from happening in the first place. All the countries in the Mediterranean must make a concerted effort to clamp down on the smugglers who are exploiting one of the most vulnerable groups on the planet and endangering their lives, virtually on a daily basis, purely for financial gain.



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