Over 200 migrants feared drowned off Libya – as 2017 promises to be even deadlier than 2016

Almost 6,000 people have attempted the Mediterranean crossing in the last week

 

Around 200 people may have drowned off Libya yesterday, according to a Spanish NGO that found five bodies in the water.

Two partially-submerged dinghies were found near the bodies and, since such boats are typically crammed with 120-130 people, rescue agencies fear the death toll may be much higher.

According to Vincent Cochetel of UNHCR, the incident comes after ‘an intense week of arrivals through the Central Mediterranean route, with almost 6,000 migrants and refugees rescued in just five days this week.’

He highlights that already in 2017, some 21,903 people have attempted the crossing from Libya to Italy. This is a marked increase on the 18,777 people who had crossed by this time last year.

Although 2016 was the deadliest year ever recorded on the Mediterranean — with 5,096 lives lost — there are fears that the 2017 death toll will rise even higher. Already (excluding the latest incident) some 587 people have died while attempting the journey.

Once again, European policy-makers will faced increased pressure to take more action to tackle people smuggling as summer approaches, and the number of crossings rises. But Cochetel warns that ‘defeating the business model of traffickers requires the existence of credible legal pathways for those in need of international protection, including through resettlement, family reunification programmes and private sponsorship.’

See: Treating refugees like burdens is folly – we should support their aspirations

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