Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

EU migrant route now twice as deadly

  • Smugglers are overcrowding rubber boats (Photo: EEAS)

The number of people dying to reach safety in Europe has soared over the past seven months and almost doubled when compared to last year.

Over 3,100 have perished so far in the Mediterranean compared to around 1,900 over the same period in 2015. Most of the drownings occurred after leaving the north African coast in an effort to reach Italy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Yet the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says the total number of arrivals by sea in Europe is only slightly higher than the same period in 2015.

Over 250,000 made the journey this year compared to around 220,000 last year. Some 94,000 landed in Italy with many from places including Eritrea, Nigeria and Sudan. The remainder, mostly from Syria, ended up in Greece.

Asked to explain the increase in drownings, the EU's border agency Frontex said smugglers are putting more people on rubber boats than before.

"We have noticed that the rubber boats are more overcrowded than they use to be," Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure told EUobserver. Moncure said smaller rubber boats are also being used.

The average number of migrants on each 10-12 metre-long rubber dinghy also rose by more than a quarter. Some now have over 100 people onboard.

223 boats seized

It is not immediately clear why smugglers in Libya are putting more and more people on rubber dinghys.

But Operation Sophia, the EU's smuggler-busting naval campaign, has since last October seized over 223 boats. They've also delivered 82 suspected smugglers to Italian authorities.

The naval campaign is composed of five ships, including an Italian light aircraft carrier, Spanish frigate, and other military assets from Germany, Luxembourg, and the UK.

On Monday (2 August), it was involved in an Italian-led rescue operations that plucked some 1,800 out of the water off the coast of Libya.

A European Commission spokesperson said Sophia has also been involved in 136 rescue operations and directly saved more than 21,000 lives.

They have assisted in the rescues of another 35,000.

"In 2015 and 2016, EU operations have contributed to saving more than 240,000 people in the Mediterranean - out of which more than 90,000 on the Central Mediterranean route," said the spokesperson in an email.

The Italian coastguard, also on Monday, said it had rescued over 8,300 people in the past five days alone.

Greece

Fewer people are making the Aegean Sea journey to Greece from Turkey since the EU signed off a migrant swap deal in March. Around 89 people are arriving every day on average as opposed to 1,700 at its height last year.

But the IOM, for its part, has also registered a jump since the failed military coup in Turkey on 15 July.

It noted a 111 percent increase from 14-20 July (375 arrivals) to 21-28 July (790 arrivals).

EU won't budge on Turkey visa demands

Turkey must meet five more benchmarks before the EU will lift any visa restrictions. The demands have received short shrift from Ankara amid its post-coup crackdown.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us