Over 1,600 migrants have died or disappeared en route to Europe, a study from the United Nations Refugee Agency said, warning that the statistics are growing.
In a report published Monday entitled Desperate Journeys, the UNHCR said 1,095 immigrants, or one out of 18 arrivals, have died while climbing the treacherous trails since January compared to last year’s recorded 2,276 deaths, or one person for every 42 arrivals.
“The reason the traffic has become more deadly is that the traffickers are taking more risk, because there is more surveillance exercised by the Libyan coastguards,” said UNHCR special envoy for the central Mediterranean Vincent Cochetel.
Seven of the 10 boating accidents which occurred along the Central Mediterranean route this year transpired within the last three months, the majority originating from Libya, the study showed.
Pascale Moreau UNHCR's European director said, "This report once again confirms the Mediterranean as one of the world's deadliest sea crossings.”
The report also cautioned that migrants fall victim to predators like human traffickers, cartels, or slave labor.
U.N. spokesperson in Spain Maria Jesus Vega said, “They risk their lives when they try to flee conflict in their countries, when they need to cross the borders with no authorization, and when they fall in the hands of traffickers and mafias that promise to take them.”
Some 500 migrants have been reported missing so far this year. According to the report, many are lost either before or after disembarkation, while others disappear following their arrest and detainment in Libyan immigration centers.
U.N. officials are calling for a regional response from Europe, not just the coastal countries shouldering the bulking influx of immigration such as Italy, Greece, or Spain.
Moreau said, "This is no longer a test of whether Europe can manage the numbers, but whether Europe can muster the humanity to save lives.”