UNHCR: “Desperate Journeys” across Mediterranean are more and more deadly

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UNHCR Desperate Journeys Alessandro Penso
Refugee woman from Eritrea comforting her friend on the transfer bus at the airport in Italy. © UNHCR/Alessandro Penso

GENEVA, JANUARY 31 – A new report reveals rising death rate for Mediterranean crossings. An average of six people died every day in 2018 as they attempted to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean, according to a new report released by UNHCR.

The “Desperate Journeys” report describes how shifts in policy by some European states saw refugees and migrants left stranded at sea for days and led to cuts in search and rescue operations that contributed to making the Mediterranean Sea crossing deadlier than ever. In total, 139,300 refugees and migrants reached European shores in 2018, the lowest number in five years, while an estimated 2,275 died or went missing. Although the overall number of deaths was down from 3,139 in 2017, the rate of deaths rose sharply. The report also reveals significant changes in the routes being used by refugees and migrants with Spain becoming the primary entry point to Europe for the first time in recent years and a fivefold decrease in arrivals to Italy.

In the meanwhile, five countries offered to end latest Mediterranean stand-off. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said late on Tuesday that Germany, France, Portugal, Romania and Malta had each agreed to take a share of the 47 refugees and migrants stranded aboard the Sea-Watch 3 for more than a week. Speaking at the end of a meeting of southern European country leaders in Cyprus, Conte reportedly bemoaned the lack of a systematic EU framework for dealing with migrant rescues. The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ordered Italy to immediately provide food and medical assistance to those on board the vessel, which is anchored off the coast of Sicily. (@OnuItalia)