6 people die every day trying to cross Med Sea: UN
Six people died every day while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2018, according to a U.N. report released on Jan. 30.
“An estimated 2,275 people died or went missing crossing the Mediterranean in 2018, despite a major drop in the number of arrivals reaching European shores,” the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in its latest report titled “Desperate Journeys.”
“In total, 139,300 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, the lowest number in five years,” it said.
The rate of deaths for the Central Mediterranean route in 2018, including arrivals to Europe of people who departed from Algeria, Greece, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey was one death for every 20 arrivals in Europe, compared to one death for every 42 arrivals in 2017, the report noted.
“For the first time in recent years, Spain became the primary entry point to Europe as around 8,000 arrived by land (through the enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla) and a further 54,800 people successfully crossed over the perilous western Mediterranean.
“As a result, the death toll for the western Mediterranean nearly quadrupled from 202 in 2017 to 777. Some 23,400 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy in 2018, a fivefold decrease compared to the previous year,” it said.
Greece received a similar number of sea arrivals, some 32,500 compared to 30,000 in 2017, but saw a near threefold increase in the number of people arriving via its land border with Turkey.
“Given the situation in Syria and other parts of the region, similar numbers are likely to continue to try to cross to Greece from Turkey, including at the land border. The freezing temperatures in winter along with the dangerous river crossing lead to several deaths each year at the land border. Further measures are needed to guard against loss of life, including ending push-backs,” read the report.
Elsewhere in Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded some 24,000 arrivals as refugees and migrants transited through the Western Balkans. Greek Cyprus received several boats carrying Syrian refugees from Lebanon while the U.K. witnessed small numbers crossing from France toward the end of the year.
“Saving lives at sea is not a choice, nor a matter of politics, but an age-old obligation,” Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in the report.
“We can put an end to these tragedies by having the courage and vision to look beyond the next boat, and adopt a long-term approach based on regional cooperation, that places human life and dignity at its core,” he said.