Drownings in the Mediterranean killed two-thirds of the 3,694 refugees who perished while trying to reach Europe since January. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it’s the deadliest route worldwide.
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 3693 cases of persons killed or missing from the start of 2016 until the end of June.
More than 2,500 individuals or two-thirds of that total drowned in the Mediterranean on their way from northern Africa to Europe, mainly Italy, said the former US diplomat.
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 refugees, 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.
Elhadj As Sy, the general-secretary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and originally from Senegal, said refugees 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 refugees 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.
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)