Six people lost their lives on average each day of 2018 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday.
In a report titled ‘Desperate Journeys’, UNHCR said as estimated that 2,275 died or went missing crossing the Mediterranean in 2018, despite a major drop in the number of arrivals reaching European shores. In total, 139,300 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, the lowest number in five years.
“Saving lives at sea is not a choice, nor a matter of politics, but an age-old obligation,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said.
“We can put an end to these tragedies by having the courage and vision to look beyond the next boat, and adopt a long-term approach based on regional cooperation, that places human life and dignity at its core.”
‘Desperate Journeys’ describes how changes in policy by some European countries saw numerous incidents where large numbers of people were left stranded at sea for many days, waiting for permission to dock.
The UNHCR report shows that one person died at sea for every 14 who arrived in Europe from Libya. It also says thousands were returned to the North African country, where they faced appalling conditions inside detention centers.
The agency hailed the countries that allowed the stranded migrants to dock in their territories, and other countries that pledged spaces for migrants evacuated from Libya.
All in all, the report shows that arrival numbers into Europe decreased significantly. For instance Italy saw some 23,400 refugees and migrants arrive into its territory in 2018, a fivefold decrease compared to the previous year. Greece received a similar number of sea arrivals, some 32,500 compared to 30,000 in 2017.