Perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe costs more migrants' lives

Published 21.01.2019 00:07
An inflatable boat with 47 migrants on board is pictured off Libya’s coasts, Jan. 19, 2019.
An inflatable boat with 47 migrants on board is pictured off Libya’s coasts, Jan. 19, 2019.

The Mediterranean Sea continues to be a deadly route with at least 170 migrants feared missing off the Libyan coast, highlighting another human tragedy

In the latest tragedy on the dangerous central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Europe, up to 170 people are feared dead after two boats carrying migrants came into difficulty in the Mediterranean. Among the missing are 10 women and two children, including a two-month-old baby. Survivors indicated their fellow migrants came from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Sudan, Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Turkey on Sunday slammed the international system for failing to address the international migration issue and its tragic consequences. "The international system, by staying silent in the face of this persistent drama and failing to find a solution, is the modern face of barbarism," Turkey's Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Twitter.

An estimated 170 migrants have been lost in the Mediterranean in two incidents involving dinghies that left from Libya and Morocco, migrants organizations said on Saturday. One dinghy was spotted sinking in rough waters on Friday by an Italian military plane on patrol. The plane dropped two safety rafts into the water but had to leave due to a lack of fuel, Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini told TV channel RaiNews24. A naval helicopter was dispatched and rescued three people who were suffering from severe hypothermia and taken to hospital on the island of Lampedusa.

In another incident, 53 migrants who left Morocco on a dinghy were missing after what one survivor said was a collision in the Alboran Sea, in the western Mediterranean, according to the Spanish nongovernmental organization (NGO) Caminando Fronteras.

The Mediterranean continues to be a deadly route for migrants trying to enter Europe illegally. The U.N. migration agency reported on Friday that the number of migrants and refugees landing on European shores had almost doubled in the first 16 days of this year to 4,216 against 2,365 over the same period in 2018. As the EU has yet to find common ground or a policy for saving the lives of migrants at sea, rights groups accused EU member states for the increase in the Mediterranean migrant death toll. According to the IOM, 83 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The United Nations' Refugee Agency said in a statement it was deeply saddened by reports of an estimated 170 people dead or missing. "The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue," said Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe's doorstep. No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea."

The number of migrants reaching the EU has in fact dropped sharply since the height of the crisis in 2015 when more than a million arrived from the Middle East and Africa, mostly by sea from Turkey to Greece and then overland across the Balkans. That route was largely shut down by a 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey. The other main route, the frequently deadly crossing from North Africa to Italy, remains open.

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