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