Mediter­ranean ‘3 times’ more deadly than 2015 Over 3,740 have died in Mediter­ranean this year

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The death toll on the Mediter­ranean has nearly matched that of all last year, with more than 3,740 mi­grants and refugees hav­ing drowned on their way to Europe, and per­ilous win­ter months still to come, aid agen­cies said yes­ter­day. Smug­glers are now send­ing thou­sands of peo­ple on flimsy in­flat­able rafts from Libya to Italy in mass em­barka­tions, per­haps to lower their own risks of be­ing caught, but also com­pli­cat­ing the work of res­cue teams, they said. At least 3,740 peo­ple have per­ished so far, nearly match­ing the death toll of 3,771 for all of 2015 when three times as many peo­ple, more than one mil­lion, took to the seas, the United Na­tions refugee agency said.

“This is by far the worse we ever have seen in the Mediter­ranean,” Wil­liam Spindler, spokesman of the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news brief­ing. “You could say that the death rate has in­creased three-fold.” About 2,200 mi­grants were plucked to safety in the cen­tral Mediter­ranean in 21 res­cue mis­sions on Mon­day and 16 bod­ies were re­cov­ered, the Ital­ian Coast Guard said. At least 17 corpses from those week­end in­ci­dents are be­ing brought to Italy, the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­ga­tion (IOM) said. “We were told by wit­nesses there may be many more. There may be other ship­wrecks that oc­curred over the week­end that we’re learn­ing more about,” IOM spokesman Joel Mill­man said.

Since the Euro­pean Union-Turkey deal in March to close down path­ways to Greece, the Libya to Italy route across the cen­tral Mediter­ranean has be­come the main route. One per ev­ery 47 mi­grants or refugees at­tempt­ing the voy­age be­tween Libya and Italy is meet­ing is dy­ing, the UNHCR’s Spindler said. “Smug­gling has be­come a big busi­ness, it’s be­ing done al­most on an in­dus­trial scale. So now they send sev­eral boats at the same time and that puts res­cue ser­vices in dif­fi­culty be­cause they need to res­cue sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple on sev­eral hun­dred boats,” he said. “But when you have so many peo­ple at sea on boats that are barely sea­wor­thy, then the dan­gers ob­vi­ously in­crease.”— Reuters

Refugees sit in an in­flat­able boat off the Libyan coast in the Mediter­ranean Sea. The Ger­man aid group Sea-Watch urged the Euro­pean Union yes­ter­day to re­con­sider its plans to train Libyan forces to con­duct sea res­cue op­er­a­tions af­ter a ves­sel la­beled as be­long­ing to the coun­try’s coast guard at­tacked the dinghy full of mi­grants last week. — AP

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