One in 88 mi­grants have died cross­ing the Mediter­ranean in 2016 – UNHCR

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Ju­lian Bon­nici

Deaths of refugees and mi­grants cross­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea have hit a record high in 2016 with 3,740 lives lost ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees.

This comes after a year were the amount of peo­ple cross­ing has dropped to 327,800 in com­par­i­son to 1,015,078 the pre­vi­ous year.

UNHCR spokesper­son Wil­liam Spindler has called it “the worst year we have ever seen”

Speak­ing at a press brief­ing in Geneva, Mr Spindler said that “From one death for ev­ery 269 ar­rivals last year, in 2016 the like­li­hood of dy­ing has spi­ralled to one in 88.”

“Be­tween Libya and Italy the like­li­hood of dy­ing is even higher, at one death for ev­ery 47 ar­rivals,” he added, re­fer­ring to what is called the Cen­tral Mediter­ranean route.

The causes of the in­crease in the death toll are mul­ti­ple but Mr Spindler has at­trib­uted it to “Peo­ple smug­glers us­ing lower-qual­ity ves­sels – flimsy in­flat­able rafts that of­ten do not last the jour­ney. Sev­eral in­ci­dents seem to be con­nected with travel dur­ing bad weather.”

He also pointed to the “mass em­barka­tion of thou­sands of peo­ple” at a time.

UNHCR stressed that “ad­dress­ing this sit­u­a­tion while en­sur­ing func­tion­ing asy­lum sys­tems re­mains a pol­icy chal­lenge for many coun­tries, but mea­sures to save lives are avail­able and UNHCR urges all coun­tries to do more in this re­gard.”

The UN agency called for the sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion of reg­u­lar path­ways for refugees to reach safe zones with­out put­ting their lives at enor­mous risk.

Such means in­clude en­hanced re­set­tle­ment and hu­man­i­tar­ian ad­mis­sions, fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion, pri­vate spon­sor­ship, and hu­man­i­tar­ian, stu­dent and work visas for refugees.

“This high death rate is also a re­minder of the im­por­tance of con­tin­u­ing and ro­bust search and res­cue ca­pac­i­ties – with­out which the fa­tal­ity rates would al­most cer­tainly be higher,” Mr Spindler noted.

This is the worst year we have ever seen

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