More than 2,500 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, the UN refugee agency said, while approximately 186,000 people have arrived in European countries during the same period.
Ruven Menikdiwela, director of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in New York, told the UN Security Council on Thursday that of the 186,000 who had crossed the Mediterranean, 83 percent—some 130,000 people—landed in Italy. Other countries where people who had crossed the Mediterranean had landed included Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.
The number of those who died or went missing during the dangerous sea crossing has surged this year compared with last year, the Security Council was told.
That number marked a large increase over the 1,680 who died or went missing in the same period in 2022.
Menikdiwela said the UN refugee agency saw “no end in sight” to the lives lost at sea and on land routes to Europe, which are similarly dangerous.
The UNHCR official told the council that the land journey from sub-Saharan African countries to sea crossing departure points on the Tunisian and Libyan coasts “remains one of the world’s most dangerous”.
More than 102,000 people attempted to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia, a 260 percent increase from last year, and more than 45,000 had tried to cross from Libya.
The UNHCR figures were similar to those presented by Par Liljert, director of the International Office for Migration (IOM).
He said tragically, during this same period, IOM recorded 2,778 deaths, with 2,093 of them occurring along the treacherous central Mediterranean route, referring to the most dangerous sea crossing.
The IOM said despite its clear dangers, in 2023, there has been an increase in arrivals to Greece along this route of over 300 per cent, while the number of arrivals in Spain has remained steady, primarily through the Atlantic route to the Canary Islands as compared to the numbers recorded at the same time last year.
IOM also witnessed a significant increase in arrivals to Italy, with 130,000 so far this year compared with some 70,000 in 2022.