Fewer people are making the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, but the proportion of those losing their lives trying has risen sharply, the UN refugee agency has said in its latest report.
The UNHCR said 1,095 people died on the central Mediterranean route, mainly from Libya to Italy, between January and July this year, or one death for every 18 arrivals – against 2,276 last year, or one death for every 42 arrivals.
In June, the proportion hit one death for every seven arrivals, the agency said, adding that there had been 10 incidents so far this year in which 50 or more people died, most of them after leaving from Libya and seven of them since June.
“The reason the traffic has become more deadly is that the traffickers are taking more risk, because there is more surveillance exercised by the Libyan coastguards,” said Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean.
More than more than 300 people have also died so far in 2018 along the sea route from North Africa to Spain, the UNHCR said – a 50% increase on 2017, when 200 deaths were recorded for the whole year. In April, when more than 1,200 reached Spain by sea, the death rate was one in 14.
“With the number of people arriving in Europe falling, this is no longer a test of whether Europe can manage the numbers, but whether Europe can muster the humanity to save lives,” UNHCR’s Europe bureau director, Pascale Moreau, said.