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2,500 drown in Mediterranean

July 14, 2016

Drownings in the Mediterranean killed two-thirds of the estimated 3,694 migrants who died or went missing worldwide this year. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it's the deadliest route worldwide.

Bootsflüchtlinge im Mittelmeer
Image: Reuters/D.Z. Lupi

Fatalities among migrants heading for Europe across the Mediterranean from Africa rose 18 percent in the past six months - compared to the same period in 2015, said the IOM on Thursday.

William Swing, the general-secretary of the intergovernmental organization on migration issues combining 165 nations, predicted that the casualty trend would worsen further into Europe's summer months.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) registered a total of 3,694 cases of persons killed or missing from the start of 2016 until the end of June.

More than 2,900 individuals, or two-thirds of that total, drowned in the Mediterranean, out of which 2,500 were on their way from northern Africa to Europe, mainly Italy, said the former US diplomat.

Infografik ertrunkene Flüchtlinge

Arrivals in Europe over those six months amounted to just over 238,000.

Refugees not dissuaded

The virtual closure of the so-called "Balkans route" initiated in February by nations such as Macedonia, Hungary and Austria and the EU's deal with Turkey to stem arrivals in Greece would hardly dissuade migrants, Swing added.

"It's like water. One builds a dam and the water flows around it," Swing said. "Refugees are innovative because they are desperate. When you erect a blockade at one spot, they search for another route."

The Mediterranean route to Europe was one among nine or ten locations worldwide with refugee crises, he said, citing conflicts in Iraq, Yemen and South Sudan.

Global database

His depiction followed decisions by major aid organizations meeting in Berlin on Tuesday to establish a global database on refugee movements and to launch information campaigns to ensure that people better know the risks.

Elhadj As Sy, the general-secretary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and originally from Senegal, said people needed better information so that they did not become "prey" to people smugglers.

"Communication is very important, said EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, referring to misinformation spread to lure migrants into paying.

"Those people [refugees] risk their lives for nothing," said Avramopoulos, adding that it would be better if Europe organized legal routes for migration to Europe.

The smugglers and human traffickers exploit the weaknesses and yearnings of people in a tragic way and spread misinformation about the destination countries in Europe," added German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Young and desperate

The IOM's head Swing said the greatest challenge were demographic trends with many young people in nations south of the Mediterranean and aging societies in wealthier northern nations.

UN refugee agency head Filippo Grandi warned Europe not to think that dwindling arrivals meant the problem had gone away.

Of the world's 65 million refugees and displaced persons, 86 percent were located in the world's poorer nations, Grandi said.

Infografik Wo Flüchtlinge Asyl fanden (Ende 2015) Englisch

Alone in Iraq, South Sudan and Burundi hundreds of thousands were currently seeking refuge, he said. "Unfortunately, the trend is not improving."

ipj/jil (AFP, dpa)

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