[JURIST] The International Organization for Migration (IOM) [official website] reported [press release] Tuesday that over 2,000 migrants have died this year in an attempt to enter Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. According to IOM, the death toll this year, up from 1,607 at the same point in the year last year, confirms that migrants’ attempt to enter Europe through the Mediterranean is especially dangerous, and in fact more dangerous than other routes according to statistics. IOM Director General William Lacy Swing stated, “[i]t is unacceptable that in the 21st century people fleeing from conflict, persecutions, misery and land degradation must endure such terrible experiences in their home countries, not to mention en route, and then die on Europe’s doorstep.” However, IOM also recognizes the grave efforts put forth by maritime forces that continue to save many lives in the Mediterranean. IOM reports that approximately 188,000 lives have been saved in the Mediterranean this year.
Refugees from conflicts in the Africa and the Middle East have also generated a tremendous humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean with hundreds of deaths in recent months. In June a British ship launched a mission [JURIST report] to rescue over 500 migrants stranded in the sea. In April top UN human rights officials and IOM issued a joint statement [JURIST report] calling on the EU to create a new rescue operation program for migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean and to commit to greater receipt of refugees. Also in April UN rights experts warned [JURIST report] the EU that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. In February a Spanish court accused 16 civil guards [JURIST report] of using excessive force against 15 sub-Saharan immigrants who drowned attempting to swim around a seawall between Ceuta and Morocco last February.