The UN refugee agency says the death toll is rising along the Mediterranean Sea crossing to Europe, even as fewer migrants and refugees make the dangerous journey.
Migration peaked in 2015, when over a million refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe. That number fell to 123,300 in 2021. However, the UN refugee agency says more than 3,200 people died or went missing at sea last year, an increase of nearly 1,000 on deaths recorded in 2018.
In addition to the rising death toll at sea, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said more people could be dead or missing along land routes through the Sahara Desert. and remote border areas.
She says deaths and abuse occur most often in and across countries of origin and transit, including Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya.
“UNHCR has continually warned of the horrific experiences and dangers faced by refugees and migrants who resort to these journeys,” Mantoo said. “Many of them are people fleeing conflict, violence and persecution. The data visualization focuses specifically on the route from the East and Horn of Africa to the Central Mediterranean Sea.
Mantoo says refugees and migrants have little choice but to rely on smugglers. She says they are at high risk of abuse from smugglers, whether they take the land route through the Sahara Desert or cross the sea from Libya and Tunisia to Italy. or Malta.
“In many cases, those who survive the journey through the Sahara and attempt the sea crossings are often abandoned by their smugglers, while some of those who leave Libya are intercepted and returned to the country, where they are then detained” , Mantoo said. “Every year, thousands of people perish or disappear at sea without a trace.
UNHCR is calling for greater action to prevent deaths, provide alternatives to dangerous travel and prevent people from becoming victims of traffickers. It calls for increased humanitarian aid and solutions for people in need of international protection.