Sea arrivals to Italy continue to fall but the death rate is on the rise, the UN refugee agency UNHCR has said. The death rate amongst those crossing from Libya increased to 1 for every 14 people in the first three months of 2018, compared to 1 for every 29 people in the same period in 2017, according to the new Desperate Journeys report focussing on changing patterns of movement from Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
Deterioration in the health of new arrivals from Libya
The report also highlights "a deeply worrying deterioration" in the health of new arrivals from Libya, with more people arriving "extremely weak, thin and in general poor health condition".
"Journeys to and through Europe for refugees and migrants remain fraught with danger," said Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR's Europe Bureau. Over 3,100 people are estimated to have lost their lives at sea while traveling to Europe in 2017, compared to 5,100 people in 2016. Another 501 people have died or gone missing since the beginning of 2018. In addition, at least 75 others perished along land routes at Europe's external borders or while traveling in Europe in 2017, with continuous and deeply worrying reports of push-backs.
Increase in arrivals to Spain and Greece in late 2017
While the overall number of Mediterranean crossings remained far below the levels of 2016, the UNHCR report also finds a rise in arrivals to Spain and Greece in the latter part of 2017. Last year, Spain witnessed a 101 percent increase last year compared to 2016, with 28,000 new arrivals.
The first months of 2018 show a similar trend, with arrivals increasing by 13 percent compared to last year. Moroccans and Algerians have become the top two nationalities, although Syrians remain the largest group to cross Spain's land borders.
In Greece, the total number of sea arrivals decreased compared to 2016; however, a 33 percent rise was observed between May and December last year with 24,600 arrivals compared to 18,300 in the same period in 2016. Most originated from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, including a high number of families with children. Asylum-seekers arriving by sea to Greece faced extended stays in overcrowded and dire conditions on Greek islands.