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*Law of Aliens

Published on August 4th, 2018 | by Roberta Mascaretti


UNHCR: Mediterranean Sea deaths pass 1,500 mark

More than 1,500 refugees and migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the first seven months of this year. The bleak milestone was confirmed after more than 850 lives were lost in June and July alone, marking the Mediterranean crossing as the deadliest sea route in the world.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is particularly concerned as the rate of deaths is increasing, despite the significant reduction in the total number of people arriving on European shores compared to previous years. Around 60,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, around half as many as during the same period last year, and a return to pre-2014 levels. However, 1 in every 31 people attempting the crossing in June and July died or are missing, compared to 1 in 49 during the 2017.

“UNHCR urges states and authorities along transit routes to take all necessary action to dismantle and disrupt smuggler networks,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean. “In order to save lives at sea, we must use appropriate and necessary measures to hold to account those who seek to gain profit from the exploitation of vulnerable human beings.” Without further action, more people are expected to perish at sea in the months ahead, as traffickers look to exploit the opportunities offered by improved weather conditions.

Unlike in previous years when Italy received the majority of new arrivals, Spain has become the primary destination, with more than 23,500 people arriving by sea, compared to around 18,500 in Italy and 16,000 in Greece. In July, UNHCR urged for search and rescue capacities on the Mediterranean Sea to be strengthened, after various restrictions were placed on NGO boats looking to rescue people in distress at sea. Earlier this year, a number of boats carrying rescued passengers were left stranded at sea for days on end after being refused initial opportunities to disembark. Enhanced search and rescue capacities, and a clear and predictable mechanism for disembarkation, are cornerstones of the joint Concept Note put forward by UNHCR together with IOM, calling for a regional, collaborative approach to saving lives on the Mediterranean Sea.

Refugees fleeing Syria make up around 13.5% of all new sea arrivals in Europe, the largest nationality group, highlighting the continued desperation faced by those affected by the world’s largest refugee crisis. UNHCR reiterates its call for the international community to address the root causes of displacement that are driving people from their homes and forcing them to take increasingly dangerous and perilous journeys.

More information available here.

About the Author

Contributor - Human Rights Professional. Migration, Human Rights & Humanitarian Affairs Adviser [Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations] (2017-2018). International Advocacy Assistant [Save the Children Italy] (2017). Human Rights Liaison Unit Intern [UNHCR] (2016). International Affairs Officer [Expo Milano 2015] (2014-2016). Post-graduate Master in International Cooperation [Italian Institute for International Political Studies] (2013-2014). Email: robertavmascaretti@gmail.com

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