People in a dinghy off the coast of Libya with a ship in the background | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/O.Calvo
People in a dinghy off the coast of Libya with a ship in the background | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/O.Calvo

According to the United Nations, more than 20,000 migrants and refugees have drowned in the past seven years trying to cross the Mediterranean. Meanwhile the number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Mediterranean has risen dramatically from last year.

Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR representative for Italy, said that it was unacceptable that people, including women and children, lost their lives while trying to escape persecution simply because there aren’t enough means to save their lives available.

She made the announcement that a total of 20,400 people had died in Mediterranean waters since 2013 on the seventh anniversary of one of the first major shipwrecks on October 03, 2013, when at least 368 migrants drowned off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The actual number of dead bodies in the Mediterranean might be higher, as it can take a long time to recover corpses from the sea, with some of the bodies reportedly never being discovered.

Read more: Journeys that end in tragedy: Tunisians catalog bodies of drowned migrants

Cardoletti takes EU to task

Cardoletti said that the issue of sea rescue should not be relegated to a few organizations such as the Italian coast guard, a handful of NGOs and unprepared merchant ships that happen to be near a shipwrecked dinghy.

But she also stressed that it was not acceptable that nations located along the EU’s Mediterranean coast were disproportionately tasked with saving the lives of boat migrants.

In her speech in Rome, Cardoletti launched a public appeal to build a comprehensive rescue and relocation plan involving all EU member states. 

Dramatic increase in sea arrivals

Meanwhile the Italian Interior Ministry shared an update on the number of migrants who had arrived on Italian shores thus far in 2020. It said that nearly 24,000 asylum seekers had reached an Italian port since the beginning of the year.

Compared to the numbers for the same period last year, sea arrivals have risen by 300% (7,900 arrivals in 2019).

Read more: Germany: Five years after the refugee crisis, what's been achieved?



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