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News > World

Refugee Aid Groups Urge Action Amid Highest Death Rate in Mediterranean Since 2015

  • A boat with migrants arriving at the Greek island of Lesbos.

    A boat with migrants arriving at the Greek island of Lesbos. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 September 2018

The U.N. attributed most of the deaths to the "decreased search and rescue capacity off the Libyan coast this year."

Refugee and migrants aid groups sounded the alarm over the latest report by the United Nations warning that the death rate for the migration crisis in the Mediterranean Sea has reached its highest level since 2015. One person drowned for every 18 migrants who reached Italy by boat for the first seven months this year, according to data released by the United Nations on Monday.

Mediterranean Migrant Camps Won't Fix EU Challenge: UN Agency

The death toll is nearly triple the rate during the same period in 2015 and double that from the following year, despite the fact that unauthorized migration along the route has dropped to its lowest level.

“A major factor contributing to the increased death rate is the decreased search and rescue capacity off the Libyan coast this year compared to the same period last year,” the United Nations refugee agency said in its report.

Matteo Villa, a migration specialist at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, a research group in Rome, described the situation as “a cautionary tale” for European officials who attempt to justify anti-migration policies by arguing that they want to preserve lives by bringing a halt to illegal smuggling.

“If your objective is to reduce the death rate, then you should be very wary of delegating rescue to the Libyan Coast Guard because they are clearly unable to deal with levels of more than 3,000 departures per month,” Villa affirmed.

He went on to note that the rising Mediterranean death rate is attributed, in large part, to an increase in shipwrecks that took place after Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini banned the majority of rescue missions from bringing migrants to Italian ports in June.

Approximately 1,600 migrants died in the Mediterranean in the first seven months of this year, according to the data released by the United Nations. 

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