Since Friday, over 6,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea heading to Europe, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement yesterday.
“These massive arrivals and the fact that more than 1,150 people have either disappeared or lost their lives while trying to reach Europe since the beginning of the year show that rescue at sea is as crucial as ever”, Grandi said.
Since the beginning of 2017 one person out of every 35 has died making the journey to Europe, with 75 dead in the last four days alone. Some 43,000 refugees and migrants have made the perilous journey since the start of the year.
Grandi commended the efforts of the Italian Coast Guard and NGOs – who have worked with Frontex to save thousands of lives – and urged further rescue efforts.
“I am profoundly shocked by the violence used by traffickers” he said. Also of concern is the increasing use of rubber boats instead of wooden ones and the lack of satellite phones on board to summon help.
“This cannot continue. There is an urgent need to address the root causes which lead people to move, as well as to offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection, including accessible and safe ways to reach Europe such as family reunification, relocation and resettlement. Action is needed before people are caught and exposed to horrendous abuses at the hands of smugglers in Libya and other transit countries, and before they board unsafe boats to cross the Mediterranean.”
Grandi called for coordinated policies and action by European and donor countries and a redoubling of efforts to solve conflicts, particularly in Africa, and to use development resources to reduce poverty, mitigate the effects of climate change and support countries of transit and those that support refugees.