They died in a desperate attempt to escape death, swallowed up by the water while trying to reach Europe. In last week alone, 880 migrants and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea. Men, women and children, victims of the poverty in which they were forced to live or fleeing a war they did not declare. They were victims twice: evicted from their homes and killed during a so-called journeys of hope.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) presented a dark appraisal Tuesday of the migrant crisis’ dramatic figures. The numbers led the refugee agency to declare this “a particularly deadly year” for those fleeing hunger and war. At the same time, the resettlement process is moving grindingly slow — so slow that the European Commission threatened infringement proceedings against states that still refuse to welcome asylum seekers.
The Central Mediterranean route, which leads from Libya to Italy, is confirmed once again as the most dangerous in the world. Of the 2,510 migrants who have lost their lives, starting out from Africa or Turkey since the beginning of the year until the end of May (compared to 1,855 in the same period of 2015), 2,119 died in the Strait of Sicily.
UNHCR blames the traffickers for the slaughter. For greater profits they fill the boats past capacity. They transport up to 600 persons per trip on boats that more often than not can’t even reach international waters.
There were 203,981 people who reached Europe during the first five months of the year, among them three-quarters were Syrians and Afghans who crossed from Turkey to Greece before March 18, the day the agreement between the European Union and Turkey was implemented. There were 46,714 migrants who arrived to Italy from sub-Saharan Africa, a slightly higher number than what was recorded in the same period last year.
Barely a day passes without more wrecks and victims, with survivors’ reports rolling in. “As well as three shipwrecks that were known to us as of Sunday, we have received information from people who landed in Augusta over the weekend that 47 people were missing after a raft carrying 125 people from Libya deflated,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said. Other people disappeared at sea on another boat, and four people died after a fire on another.
Spindler, who also recalled the violence suffered by migrants during the journey, finally asked once again for the European Union to create legal immigration channels and said it is “shameful” that, so far, less than 2,000 people have been resettled out of the 160,000 announced.
Resettlement was discussed Tuesday in Brussels. European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said refugees were being processed too slowly. So far, just 1 percent of relocations promised have been executed. And even taking into account that for the first time there were relocations every day for a week, “the pace must be accelerated,” she said, or the Commission will begin infringement proceedings.
“To date, we have had 1,816 people relocated from Italy and Greece,” Andreeva said. “We are talking about a legally binding decision, a European law that must be implemented by those who made the decision in the Council.” She also announced that the commission headed by Jean Claude Juncker sent warning letters to the member states in default. “If necessary, we will not be shy to exercise our powers.”
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