‘We are facing an unprecedented situation in the Mediterranean region, where a growing number of refugees trying to reach Europe are losing their lives in the attempt. There have been further tragedies in the last few days. Several boats have capsized, and hundreds of people have drowned. Norway is providing NOK 50 million for measures to help refugees and migrants in transit countries in Africa, with a view to preventing even more people from embarking on the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
The funds from Norway will be channelled primarily to the work being carried out by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in African transit countries to help refugees from various countries, including Syria and Eritrea. These programmes are severely underfunded. Norway will strengthen its strategic cooperation with the International Organization for Migration and will also provide support for the Norwegian Refugee Council’s education programme for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.
‘People of all ages, including women and children, take an enormous risk in the hope of finding a better life. Norway wants to help give people alternatives to embarking on the treacherous journey through African transit countries. In the time ahead, Norway will engage in targeted cooperation with a number of partners on protection measures for refugees in transit countries and other migration issues,’ said Mr Brende.
The enormous human tragedy that is unfolding in the Mediterranean shows that there is a need to intensify efforts in several areas. Norwegian development assistance aimed at helping people in their countries of origin or neighbouring host countries needs to be seen in relation to the extensive humanitarian assistance Norway is providing to assist people forced to flee their homes because of conflicts and crises. Norway is also working actively to combat human trafficking, an area in which those responsible are becoming ever more cynical and well organised.
Never before have there been so many people fleeing from wars, conflicts, natural disasters and poverty in Africa and the Middle East, and seeking to enter Europe via the Mediterranean. According to UNHCR, more than 218 000 people arrived in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean last year. At least 3500 people drowned in the attempt. There is documented evidence of grave attacks on people fleeing along the main human trafficking routes in the Sahel and North Africa. It is highly likely that the number of people drowning or falling victim to attack along the human trafficking routes will increase in 2015.