Refugees are dying to reach Europe

2016’s Mediterranean death toll has hit an all-time high, one person dies for every 88 arrivals. 

The number of refugees and migrants dying on their way to Europe reached an all-time high this year, even if there are still two months to go, reported the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  Even if the number of people trying to cross the Mediterranean drop, for every 88 arrivals this year, one person died, compared to one in 269 from 2015.

“On the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy the likelihood of dying is even higher, at one death for every 47 arrivals,” told journalists William Spindler, a spokesperson for the UNHCR. He said this is the worst they’ve seen as the grim ratio for the route worsened by more than 5.7 times.

According to the agency, in the last ten months at least 3,740 lives were lost, just below the 3,771 deaths reported last year. This is worrying because the number of people trying to reach Europe in 2016 is significantly lower. In 2015 at least 1,015,078 people made the crossing compared to 327,8000 this year.

“About half those who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year have travelled from North Africa to Italy, a known more perilous route,” said Spindler explaining one of the causes behind the rise. Among other causes are lower-quality “vessels” used by people smugglers, these inflatable rafts don’t often last the journey because of mass embarkations, explained Spindler.

In an article for IPS, Baher Kamal classifies smugglers stories as horror tales. Reports show smugglers purposely give refugees and migrants defective life vests as a tactic to push humanitarian groups and coastal authorities to rescue them.

UNHCR also recalls the importance of search and rescue capacities, without which the fatality rates would be higher. It also urged countries to give more attention into resettlement and humanitarian admissions, family reunification, private sponsorship and humanitarian, student and work visas for refugees. 


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