Nearly 2,000 migrants have perished this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, with this year set to be deadlier than the last according to United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) data.
Increased death toll: IOM data shows a significant uptick in deaths on Mediterranean crossing routes this year.
* From January 1 to June 26 this year, at least 1,999 migrants died, an increase from 1,358 in the same period last year.
* The capsizing of the fishing boat Adriana off the coast of Greece two weeks ago accounts for a large portion of the increase, with an estimated 596 lives lost.
* The number of migrants attempting the crossing has also risen, with over 60,000 arriving in Italy compared to fewer than 27,000 at this point last year.
Dangerous journeys: Migrants face high risks during their crossings due to a combination of factors.
* A new trend of using iron boats, which are prone to breaking and capsizing, has made journeys particularly risky.
* The Libyan route, which has long been known as a dangerous route due to its length, has seen cases of overloaded vessels, such as the Adriana.
* Smuggling networks in Libya and especially Tunisia overload people onto flimsy boats that are unfit for high seas.
Aid group concerns: Assistance from authorities is often slow and aid groups that help may be prosecuted.
* Several instances of coast guards being slow to intervene have been reported.
* The number of European and non-governmental organization rescue ships at sea has declined compared to the period between 2015 and 2017 when migrant arrivals in Europe were similar.
* “Pushbacks”, where states force refugees and migrants out of their territories, have been recorded.
* Aid workers involved in migrant rescue efforts have faced criminalization, with no civil society rescue teams currently operating in Greek waters.
Suggestions for improvement: Experts call for legal pathways for migrants and refugee protections in transit countries.
* Reva Dhingra, a Middle East migration specialist, suggests decriminalizing rescue efforts and focusing on protections and rights of migrants and refugees in transit countries like Libya and Tunisia.
* She also advises on the establishment of more legal pathways for migrants to prevent them from resorting to perilous sea crossings.
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