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  • Migrant woman reacts next to the body of her child after a boat accident off the Libyan coast, in Qarabulli town, Libya June 2, 2019.

    Migrant woman reacts next to the body of her child after a boat accident off the Libyan coast, in Qarabulli town, Libya June 2, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 June 2019
Opinion

Data was disclosed on the same day when the migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch was approached by Italian authorities in the northern part of the Mediterranean region.

The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed Friday that over 1,600 children have been reported dead or missing when they tried to arrive, either alone or with their families, to some place abroad.

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These children are among the 32,000 dead or missing migrants registered between 2014 and 2018. Based on this amount, the highest number of lives lost per region occurred at the Mediterranean migratory routes, where 12,000 dead bodies out of 17,900 missing persons were actually recovered.

Although the global number of deaths in the Mediterranean decreased from 3,239 in 2017 to 2,299 in 2018, the IOM warned that the risk of dying in the Mediterranean region increased especially on the western route which leads to Spanish coasts, where deaths increased from 244 to 811 in the same period.

The Mediterranean migratory central route, which goes from Libya to Italy and Malta, registered 1,314 deaths and disappearances in 2018.

All of this data has been compiled by the Missing Migrants Project (MMP), and OIM initiative which issues an annual report since 2014.

The number of dead or missing migrants would have been much greater if human rights organizations had not undertaken rescue actions for Africans who were shipwrecked in the Mediterranean.​​​

Among them are Proactiva Open Arms, Sea Watch and Mediterranea, three NGOs which agreed on an humanitarian alliance on Nov. 2018 to dedicate their ships to save lives in the absence of European Union (EU) assistance to people who are left adrift in the sea.

"Our leaders finance third countries, in which there are dictatorships and failed states controlled by militias as happens in Libya, in order to prevent migrants and refugees from reaching Europe," held those human rights defenders at the launch of their joint initiative.

"There is a growing criminalization campaign against migrants, refugees and humanitarian workers dedicated to defending migrants and refugees rights," they warned months ago, as RTV reported.

As part of the xenophobic environment fostered by far-right politicians in Europe, Italy did not authorize the entry of the Sea Watch 3, a ship which hosts 42 African migrants rescued on June 12 in the central Mediterranean sea, into its territory.

Nevertheless, its captain Carola Rackete, a 31-year-old former environmental activist, entered Wednesday Italian waters without permission to take rescued migrants to the Lampedusa port.

While waiting for an answer for its humanitarian assistance request, the Sea Watch vessel was approached on Friday by the Italian authorities. According to local media, the captain, her crew and the rescued migrants will be soon interrogated.

The Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who ​​​​​​proposed the "Closed Ports" policy to humanitarian boats that rescue migrants, commented on the Sea Watch case latest developments.

"There are an outlaw crew and an outlaw commander who must be stopped, arrested, expelled. There is a ship which for the third time does not respect the rules, laws and common sense. Therefore, I expect fines, kidnappings, arrests, blockages, removals," he said.

"I have 60 people to look after. Salvini can wait in the row," said Captain Rackete, a brave woman who could face 20 years in prison for saving migrants.

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