The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler reportedly said at a press conference on Tuesday, “This is the worst we’ve seen. The high loss of life comes despite a large overall fall this year in the number of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.”
According to a tweet from the UNHCR on Wednesday, “the latest reports put the number of people dead and missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year at over 3,800, the highest ever.” Despite that there are still two months left in 2016, the number of migrants lost this year surpasses the estimated total of 3,771 deaths from last year.
BREAKING Latest reports put the number of people dead and missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year at over 3800, the highest ever.— UNHCRNews (@RefugeesMedia) October 26, 2016
The fact that this many people have died while traversing the Mediterranean is astounding, especially considering that the reported number of people navigating their way to Greece and Italy is significantly less than last year. The UNHCR estimated that so far this year 327,800 people have embarked on the journey, while in 2015 1,015,078 people attempted to cross.
Spindler addressed the causes of the increased number of deaths as multi-factorial, but particularly in relation to a more dangerous route choice selected by roughly half of those making the voyage this year. He explained that traveling from North Africa to Italy is “a known more perilous route.”
People smugglers who practice exploitative techniques also put migrants’ lives at risk, Spindler noted. Other causes of death were people smugglers’ use of “flimsy inflatable rafts that do not last the journey,” and “mass embarkations of thousands of people at a time.” Bad weather was the cause of only “several incidents,” according to the report.
The Mediterranean refugee crisis is truly heartbreaking, considering that such high numbers of people risk their lives to escape the hardships of their homeland to no avail.
Banner photo credit: hrw.org