Migrant deaths are on the rise despite a dramatic drop in the numbers crossing the Mediterranean
1,600 migrants lost at sea in Mediterranean this year
Migrant deaths are on the rise despite a dramatic drop in the numbers crossing the Mediterranean to Europe in recent months.
The UN refugee agency estimates that 1,600 people have died at sea this year alone – a 20% increase from the total of 1,300 to 1,500 recorded in the same period last year.
The figure is set to rise further if it is not reduced soon, with more than 2,000 people reported to have died already in July and August.
The sharp rise in the number of deaths comes as security forces in Libya, the main route for migrants to reach Europe by sea, close to zero.
According to Save the Children, who compiled the figure for the UNHCR, more than 80% of the migrants in the Mediterranean are from sub-Saharan Africa. Human traffickers have also started to use increasingly dangerous methods to kill their passengers, the charity has reported.
Habib Mohammed, the head of the Libyan Red Crescent’s joint relief centre, said members of the armed groups ruling the country are seen as enemies by many migrants who are trying to survive in Libya.
“Since the revolution the armed groups are now criminals who are posing as authorities and so families are putting their children at the risk of being raped, killed or kidnapped,” he said.
“There is a sort of licence for anybody to take hostages, for kidnapping and raping.”
Egypt and Tunisia share responsibility for the deaths of the migrants who have already landed in Europe this year, the UNHCR report says.
Some 2,000 people, mainly from Libya, have reached Europe on land in the last two weeks alone, followed by another 1,600 by sea.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the high influx of migrants from north Africa is largely driven by smuggling networks based in Libya that provide smugglers and traffickers for the clandestine trafficking in humans.
The Mediterranean route now becomes a large obstacle course: forced crossings, separate routes for nationalities crossing into Europe, the recent violence in Libya, and fighting in Libya itself, which has created further routes, as well as competition for routes, asylum seekers say.
The CIA Factbook says migrants in the Mediterranean in 2016 spent 12 months trying to get to Italy via Libya. In the first two weeks of August, it has been estimated that the journey to Italy via Libya took around 20 days, although it could be longer.