Sharp rise in proportion of migrants dying in Mediterranean, says UN

Sharp rise in proportion of migrants dying in Mediterranean, says UN

Despite the decline in migration to Europe since its peak in 2015-16, the proportion of those losing their lives on the journey across the Mediterranean continues to rise, according to the UN refugee agency in its latest report.

In 2017, 2,276 people died on the central Mediterranean route from Northern Africa to Southern Europe, which translated into about one death for every 42 arrivals. But in 2018, the route has claimed 1,095 lives between January and July and the proportion is one death for every 18 arrivals, according to the UNHCR.

In June, the UNHCR reported that this proportion had reached one death for every seven arrivals, adding that there have been at least 10 separate incidents this year that have recorded death totals of 50 people or more. Most of these incidents occurred on routes that began in Libya.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean explains, "The reason the traffic has become more deadly is that the traffickers are taking more risk, because there is more surveillance exercised by the Libyan coastguards."

According to UNHCR’s Europe bureau director, Pascale Moreau, “With the number of people arriving in Europe falling, this is no longer a test of whether Europe can manage the numbers, but whether Europe can muster the humanity to save lives.” The focus of discussion has now shifted to how European countries, especially “front line” southern states such as Greece and Italy, will handle the arrival of these refugees.

To address this issue, the UNHCR has called for Europe to provide increased access to safe, legal passageways for refugees by boosting resettlement places and cutting obstacles to family reunification. In their own statement, the UN Migration Agency, IOM, has demanded a “predictable, regional approach” for the rescue of the people who are recovered in the Mediterranean.

Cochetel emphasized the importance of avoiding anti-migrant rhetoric, and urged Europe to come together and “take the lead” on this issue.

The AIDF Global Summit will return to Washington D.C, in 2019. 

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Photo Credit: Hani Amara/Reuters

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