1,600 migrants disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea this year

Rome (Associated Press)—— A ship with more than 30 people sank This week is the deadliest immigration tragedy in the English Channel to date.

However, migrant shipwrecks of this size are not uncommon in the waters around the southern border of Europe.

This year alone, UN officials estimate that 1,600 people have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean, which is the main gateway for immigrants trying to enter the European continent with the help of human smugglers.

The death toll is higher than last year, but it is by no means unique. The International Organization for Migration estimates that since 2014, 23,000 people have been killed while trying to cross the Mediterranean in a rickety boat or rubber boat, reaching a peak of more than 5,000 in 2016. During the same seven years, about 166 people died in the British channel.

Flavio di Giacomo, the spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration in Italy, said that just last week, 85 people were killed in two separate incidents trying to reach Italy from Libya. These tragedies have hardly attracted attention in Europe.

“I think it’s a question of proximity,” Di Giacomo said. “I think the media’s attention to what happened between the UK and France is also because it is new. Europe is not used to having it inside the continent; usually on the external borders.”

The busiest and deadliest migration route to Europe this year is the central Mediterranean, where people travel from Libya and Tunisia in crowded boats. In some cases all the way from Turkey -Travel to Italy. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 60,000 people arrived in Italy by sea this year, and about 1,200 died or were missing on the way.

The number of missing is estimated in part based on information from shipwreck survivors.

On Thursday, migrant rescue activists said that a ship carrying 430 people in the central Mediterranean was entering water and called on European authorities to provide assistance. Another ship operated by the charity Sea-Watch is looking for a safe port to disembark 463 rescued migrants.

At the same time, since last year, traffic on a more dangerous route in the Atlantic has increased. Immigrants set off from Senegal, Mauritania or Morocco on simple wooden boats hoping to reach the Canary Islands in Spain. Some ships sank not far from the coast of Africa, while others disappeared further away, in some cases, missing the Canary Islands and drifting deep into the Atlantic Ocean.

“The route from West Africa is long and dangerous,” said Digiacomo.

He said that the International Organization for Migration registered 900 deaths on the Canary route this year, but the true number may double, “and no one has paid much attention.”

more than 400 rescued Trying to reach the islands this week.

Human rights groups often criticize European governments for not taking more measures to rescue migrants who have tried to reach the European continent on unseaworthy ships. A few years ago, Italy-led European rescue efforts in the central Mediterranean have been reduced, with more emphasis on training and equipping the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant ships before they reach European waters. Critics say that Europe has turned a blind eye to human rights violations in Libyan immigration detention centers.

Carlotta Sami of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Italy pointed out that nine out of ten refugees have fled to neighboring countries. The agency is pushing EU governments to provide refugees with “safe passages”, “to reduce attempts to engage in extreme risks.” The number of people on the journey. .”


Associated Press writer Lorne Cooke in Brussels contributed to this report.

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