Migration, deaths in the Med reached highest levels in 6 years
LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The first three months of 2023 were the deadliest first quarter in six years for migrants crossing the central Mediterranean Sea in smugglers’ boats. This was declared by the United Nations migration agency, citing delays by nations in initiating rescues as a contributing factor.
The International Organization for Migration documented 441 migrant deaths along the dangerous sea route between northern Africa and Europe’s southern shores during January, February and March. In 2017, 742 known deaths were documented in the same period, while 446 were recorded in the first three months of 2015. “The persisting humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean is intolerable,” IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino said with reference to present situation. “With more than 20,000 deaths recorded on this route since 2014, I fear that these deaths have been normalized,” Vitorino said. “States must respond. Delays and gaps in state-led search and rescue areas are costing human lives”. The true number of lives lost among migrants who set out on smugglers’ unseaworthy rubber dinghies or decrepit fishing boats is unknown because the bodies of people who perish at sea often are never recovered. Many deaths only come to light when survivors recount that their vessel set out with more passengers than the number who ultimately make it to safety. According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 31,192 migrants had arrived in Italy by sea this year as of Tuesday. The figure didn’t include about 700 migrants crowded aboard a smuggler’s boat that apparently ran out of fuel and was towed Wednesday morning to a port in Sicily under an Italian coast guard escort. Under current EU rules, the country where asylum-seekers first arrive is responsible for them. “The situation in the Mediterranean has been a humanitarian crisis for over a decade now,” IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli said. “And the fact that deaths continue on its own is very alarming, but the fact that that’s increased is extremely alarming because it means that very little concrete action was taken to address the issue.”
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