Coffins of victims in an hangar of Lampedusa airport on October 5, 2013 after a boat with migrants sank killing more than hundred people. Credit: ANSA/LANNINO
Coffins of victims in an hangar of Lampedusa airport on October 5, 2013 after a boat with migrants sank killing more than hundred people. Credit: ANSA/LANNINO

The number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe on boats has fallen but the journey has become much more deadly, according to the UNHCR report 'Desperate Journeys'.

A report released on Monday by the UNHCR notes that over the past three years the Mediterranean has become steadily more deadly for migrants trying to cross it. Entitled Desperate Journeys, the report shows that over 1,600 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the sea towards Europe so far this year. 


Mortality rate has risen sharply 

As the UN agency noted in a statement, the report shows that while the total number of people arriving in Europe via the route has dropped, the death rate for those trying to do so has risen sharply. On the central Mediterranean route, one out of every 18 people trying to cross between January and July 2018 died, compared with one every 42 in the same period of 2017. 

''This report confirms once more that the Mediterranean is one of the deadliest sea crossings in the world,'' said 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.'' 

Main figures in the report 

The UNHCR report notes that there have been 10 incidents this year so far in which 50 or more people lost their lives, most of whom have left from Libya. Seven of these incidents have happened since the beginning of June. Over 300 people have died along the route from North Africa to Spain, a sharp rise compared with 2017, when 200 people died the entire year. As of April this year, when over 1,200 migrants arrived in Spain via the Mediterranean Sea, the death rate rose to one every 14 people arriving on Spanish coasts. 

At least 78 migrants and refugees have died so far this year on land routes to Europe and its borders, compared with 45 in the same period last year. Over the past few months, the UNHCR and the UN migration agency IOM have asked Europe to bring in a regional approach for the rescue and disembarking of people in distress in the Mediterranean Sea and to increase safe and legal ways for refugees to go to Europe, increase locations for resettlement, remove obstacles to family reunification and provide alternatives to potentially fatal journeys.
 

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