EU: The number of deaths in the Mediterranean will reach a new peak this year


"UNHCR is alarmed at the high death toll being seen this year among refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Already, and with two months of 2016 still to go, at least 3,740 lives are reported lost – just short of the 3,771 deaths reported for the whole of 2015. This is the worst we have seen.

The high loss of life comes despite a large overall fall this year in the number of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Last year at least 1,015,078 people made the crossing. This year so far, crossings stand at 327,800. From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiralled to one in 88. On the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy the likelihood of dying is even higher, at one death for every 47 arrivals.

The causes of the increase are multiple: About half those who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year have travelled from North Africa to Italy – a known more perilous route. People smugglers are today often using lower-quality vessels – flimsy inflatable rafts that often do not last the journey. Several incidents seem to be connected with travel during bad weather. And the tactics of smugglers are switching too, with several occasions when there have been mass embarkations of thousands of people at a time. This may be to do with the shifting smuggler business model or geared towards lowering detection risks, but it also makes the work of rescuers harder."

See: Mediterranean death toll soars to all-time high (UNHCR, link)

 

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