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News > World

Refugee Deaths Rise as Europe Hardens Approach

  •  A Turkish police officer carries a young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos.

    A Turkish police officer carries a young boy who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 September 2016

Despite the public outcry over the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in the Mediterranean last year, Oxfam said refugee deaths have increased since then.

World refugee deaths over the last year have increased by more than one-fifth, according to international charity Oxfam.

The alarming increase comes as Europe tightens its borders and a year after the world was shocked by the image of a three-year old boy washed up in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Oxfam said Friday that around the world 5,700 refugees died while trying to flee to other countries since September 2015. Since the start of 2016, on average one refugee died around every 80 minutes, Oxfam said.

The majority of refugee deaths were from people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea hoping to enter Europe, according to numbers from the International Organization for Migration.

Significant refugee deaths also happened as a result of people attempting to cross the Sahara desert, drownings in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, where thousands are fleeing Myanmar other parts of Southeast Asia. Many others died travelling on train tops in Mexico.

Despite the rising death tolls for refugees, Europe is increasingly hardening its border policy. On Thursday, France announced that it will close the the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, a major stop for refugees hoping to enter the U.K. Refugee charities estimate that the Calais Jungle currently holds around 10,000 people. Critics say the plan will only create more problems and higher refugee numbers.

Germany and Italy last week signaled a hardening approach to refugees as they agreed to increase efforts to send home refugees with no asylum rights back to their countries of origin.

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A year ago, images of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy washed up in the Mediterranean Sea shocked the world and sparked a rising interest and awareness in the plight of desperate refugees.

Analysis from the Visual Social Media Lab, showed significant increases in social media engagement with refugee issues. The #RefugeesWelcome hashtag was used 2.35 million times in the last year.

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