UN calls 2016 deadliest year for Mediterranean refugees

UN calls 2016 deadliest year for Mediterranean refugees

The UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) [official website] on Wednesday called 2016 the worst year for refugees [press release] crossing the Mediterranean Sea as the death toll reached its highest point. The agency expressed concern because the current death tolls are on track to supersede the already high numbers from 2015. The agency believes the death rates are due to changes in smuggling techniques, crossing a known “perilous route” and moving large masses of individuals at one time. The agency also noticed an increase in the usage of watercraft that are not designed for the voyage or to transfer multiple people.

UNHCR is alarmed at the high death toll being seen this year among refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Already, and with two months of 2016 still to go, at least 3,740 lives are reported lost—just short of the 3,771 deaths reported for the whole of 2015. This is the worst we have seen. The high loss of life comes despite a large overall fall this year in the number of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Last year at least 1,015,078 people made the crossing. This year so far, crossings stand at 327,800. From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiralled to one in 88. On the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy the likelihood of dying is even higher, at one death for every 47 arrivals.

UNHCR called for greater international efforts, including, “enhanced resettlement and humanitarian admissions, family reunification, private sponsorship, and humanitarian, student and work visas for refugees.”

An administrative court in Lille, France, on last Tuesday rejected [JURIST report] requests from almost a dozen aid groups and permitted the closure process of the “Jungle” migrant camp near Calais to continue. Amnesty International (AI) in early October called [JURIST report ] on wealthy nations to become more active in solving the refugee crisis after discovering that 10 nations making up less than 2.5 percent of the world’s GDP have taken in more than half of all resettled persons. In the same month the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed [JURIST report] an Indiana district court ruling that blocked Indiana’s effort to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugee families in the state.