Record Numbers Dying To Reach European Shores

More than 3,400 migrants have died attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean this year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said.

Governments have been urged to do more to prevent further casualties as it emerged a record 207,000 people had attempted to make the dangerous crossing since January

The figure is almost three times the previous high of 70,000 reached during the Libyan civil war in 2011.

Most of those escaping war or poverty and seeking asylum or a better life set sail from Libya and are bound for Italy and Malta.

Those tracked by UNHCR include 60,051 Syrians and 4,561 Eritreans.

The figures were revealed at the start of a two-day meeting in Geneva on how best to protect migrants escaping persecution, war, instability and poverty.

It is being hosted by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres who has warned states seem increasingly preoccupied with securing their own borders rather than preventing the loss of life.

“This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars,” Mr Guterres said, without naming specific countries.

“Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up being collateral damage.

“You can’t stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence,” Mr Guterres warned.

“The real root causes have to be addressed, and this means looking at why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and what can be done to crack down on the criminal networks who prosper from this.”

Conflict around Europe’s southern and eastern borders, in Libya, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, has increased the number of people heading for mainland Europe.

Italy is the first port of call for many and the country has already this year rescued more than 150,000 people from overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.

Navy and coast guards last week found an inflatable dinghy adrift of the island of Lampedusa – they rescued 75 migrants and recovered the bodies of 17 who had died from hypothermia and dehydration.

But Italy recently ended its search-and-rescue operation after other EU member states refused to help fund it with critics arguing that, by saving the migrants, countries were simply encouraging them to try their luck.

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10 December 2014 | 1:08 pm – Source: orange.co.uk

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