More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the sixth year in a row that this “bleak milestone” has been reached, the UN said on Tuesday.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR called for European Union (EU) member states to reactivate search and rescue operations and acknowledge the crucial role of aid groups’ vessels in saving lives at sea.
“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” Charlie Yaxley, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement.
The bodies of five migrants were found on Morocco’s Atlantic coast near Casablanca on Monday, bringing to 12 the number killed when their boat capsized on Saturday, the state news agency reported.
The EU struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to cut off refugee and migrant flows to Greece from Turkey. Departures have fallen sharply from a peak of more than 1 million in 2015 to some 78,000 so far this year, UNHCR figures show.
• The EU struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to cut off refugee and migrant flows to Greece from Turkey. • Departures have fallen sharply from a peak of more than 1 million in 2015 to some 78,000 so far this year, figures show.
“Of course the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean are much lower. So, that points to the fact that the journeys themselves are much more dangerous,” UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told Reuters Television.
“It is also worth highlighting that 70 percent of the deaths actually occur on the central Mediterranean, namely people attempting to get from Libya across to Italy or Malta.”
More than 18,000 people have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014, according to figures from both the UNHCR and the website of the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Meanwhile, Libya’s coast guard said on Tuesday it has intercepted around three dozen Europe-bound migrants off the Mediterranean coast.
Tuesday’s statement by spokesman Ayoub Gassim said the rubber boat with 31 African migrants was stopped on Sunday off the western city of Sabratha.
Sabratha is one of the biggest launching points for migrants making the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea.
Gassim said the migrants were taken to a detention center in the western town of Zawiya.