UN: 103,000 migrants, refugees crossing to Europe in 2015

UN reports more than 100,000 migrants and refugees traverse Mediterranean to reach at European soil this year, expected to bring some additional burdens on EU’s shoulders

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday that more than 100,000 people have attempted to reach across to the continental Europe via crossing over the Mediterranean since January.

The UNHCR stated that almost 103,000 people have risked their lives through boat trips on the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach at Europe where the issue of migrants and refugees raised domestic and international concerns.

The EU migrant policies came to fore since refugee boats have been capsizing off around Libya and Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea in the past several years, but the rapid increase in death toll this year brought the issue as an emergent topic to cope with for the sake of the 28-member bloc’s home affairs.

According to the figures released by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 1800 people lost their lives in the mass drownings and boat capsizes so far this year in the Mediterranean.

The IOM had previously reported that the boat capsizing death toll was 3,072 migrants in 2014 in comparison with a number of 700 people in 2013 in the Mediterranean Sea.

Some 800 migrants died in a single boat capsized in April which marked the biggest maritime disaster in the Mediterranean since the Second World War and that sparked the public outrage in Europe and the world.

The international migrant organisations and the EU have been blaming mostly Italy and Greece for the increasing trends in migrants and refugees’ risky voyage en route to Europe.

“UNHCR is stepping up its presence in Greece and in southern Italy in response to the dramatic increase in numbers of refugees and migrants who we have been seeing arriving," the Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

International rights groups and civil society organisations also blame the EU for its negligence about the migrants’ overseas navigation in the Mediterranean despite the fact that refugee boat accidents have dramatically increased in the recent years.

"European governments' ongoing negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015," the Amnesty International once said after a boat was capsized off Libyan shores last month.

Upon the increasing tragic incidents this year, the UNHCR expressed its disappointment with the EU’s ignorance of such humanitarian catastrophe and urged Europe to double its search and rescue efforts.

The EU had stopped to fund Italy's Mare Nostrum rescue mission last year which left the country alone with a floating of migrants and refugees who were directly coming from the war-torn or insecure countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Italian coastguards saved 6,000 refugees at the weekend, most of them coming from the Sub-Saharan African countries, and took them to Italian shores, hereby bringing the year's total of new arrivals in the country to 54,000 people.

Meanwhile, the financial crisis the Greek government has been striving to cope this year also has escalated the migrant crisis in Europe since almost 48,000 people arrived in the coasts of Greek islands where they have been forsaken to their own destiny.

"Record numbers of refugees are continuing to arrive in rubber dinghies and wooden boats on Lesvos, putting huge strain on the island's capacity and resources," Edwards said.

The European Commission has recently proposed an action plan on asylum and immigration that ensures the burden of 20,000 migrants intake among the EU member states.

The proposed document settles migrant quotas in accordance with the EU countries’ GDP level, population and number of migrants already living in those countries.  

So far almost 10 countries in the EU bloc including the UK, Hungary, Spain as well as France raised their objections to the action plan presented by the Commission.

The EU also approved last month a mission to tackle with the issue through destroying the migrant boats used for human trafficking in the Mediterranean.

But the UN put its reserves on EU’s decision to submerge vessels because of some humanitarian and military reasons which oblige to get a permission from the UN Security Council.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel highlighted the issue and stated that the EU’s struggle with the human traffickers should be operated on the basis of international law, for that the Security Council decision is keenly needed in order to cope with the problem in the Mediterranean.


TRTWorld and agencies