Crossing the Mediterranean is extremely risky for migrants
Crossing the Mediterranean is extremely risky for migrants

The UN agency for migration has reported that at least 519 migrants have died in the Mediterranean since the start of 2019. Over half of the victims died between the coasts of Italy and Malta. Meanwhile, Greece has become the top destination for migrants.

Migrant arrivals by sea in Europe have gone down significantly in 2019. 21,301 people arrived in the first five months. Over the same period last year, there were 32,070 arrivals. That's according to data provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

Meanwhile, there were fewer migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, but the death rate increased. From January until May 2019, at least 519 people died at sea. In 2018, 662 people died over the same period. 

This means between January and May 2019, 23 migrants died out of every 1000 who tried to make it to Europe via the Mediterranean. Between January and May 2018, 20 out of every 1000 migrants died. 

Death rate en route to Italy, Malta: 12.5 percent

The route across the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy or Malta is particularly deadly. The majority of deaths happened on this route, even though most migrants used other routes. 

The majority of migrants and refugees who arrived between January and May 2019 - 85 percent - landed on the coasts of Spain and Greece. 

But over half of the migrants who died - 321 people - lost their lives trying to reach Italy or Malta. This means that 125 out of every 1000 persons died. 

Greece registered highest number of arrivals 

Greece is now ahead of Spain as the main destination for migrants reaching Europe through the Mediterranean. 

A total of 10,200 migrants have landed in Greece this year, including 2,483 in May. 

From the start of the year until April 30, a reported 3,497 people arrived in Greece by land through the border with Turkey. 

In Spain, 7,876 migrants arrived by sea and 2,107 by land across the border with Morocco between January and May 2019. 

In Italy, there were only 1,561 sea arrivals. Meanwhile, 684 migrants landed in Malta and 980 in Cyprus. 

UNHCR: Rise in deaths at sea unacceptable

The question of whether European countries should do more to save migrants in the Mediterranean and whether private NGOs should be allowed to rescue migrants has long been controversially discussed.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi recently weighed in. He said that "rescuing at sea, among all humanitarian gestures, is the most exemplary" and that "decreasing the ability to rescue at sea is an attack against European culture and tradition."

Speaking at the Economy Festival in Trento, Italy, on June 1, Grandi said that "the proportion of deaths at sea, compared to arrivals, continues to increase, which is unacceptable." He defended the role of private sea rescue organization, saying that they ''carry out very important work."

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