Death toll of migrants in Mediterranean crosses 10,000

Over 10,000 migrants have died since 2014 in desperate attempts to find a better life in Europe, by using dangerous means to cross the Mediterranean sea, the United Nations has said. The United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says there has been a sharp increase in the number of migrant deaths recorded from January to June this year. 2,814 migrants according to the UN body, have died so far.

This is against a total migrant deaths of 3,771 recorded in 2015 and 3,500 recorded in 2014. This brings the total number of migrant deaths to 10,085 in less than two-and-a-half years.

“You’ve now had since the start of 2014 – when this phenomenon of rising numbers across the Mediterranean happened — 10,000 deaths,” said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards. “This is clearly an appalling number of deaths that have occurred in the Mediterranean, just on Europe’s borders, just in the past couple of years,” Edwards said in an interview.

Just last week, a vessel perilously carrying a large number of people capsized off the Greek Coast of Crete adding to the toll. The aid and advocacy group, International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that the vessel was carrying 650 people when it capsized. It was bound from Egypt to Italy. Dozens of bodies were recovered from the sea.

“There were many women and children on board,” said Giovanna Di Benedetto, spokeswoman for Save the Children. The men, women and children attempting these perilous journeys were from countries including Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Nigeria.

Meanwhile, a total of 206,400 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe as at Monday, since the start of the year, and have landed mainly in Greece and Italy, the IOM said.

Europe is facing its worst migrant crisis since World War II. People are fleeing Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. They are desperate to escape war, conflicts, unemployment, lack of opportunities and rising poverty in their countries and resort to using risky methods to cross over to Europe in the hopes of a better life.

However, the rising death toll has prompted urgent efforts to tackle the problem and the EU has unveiled fresh plans to stop the migrant flow from Africa.

The plans involve channelling EU funds of up to 60 billion euros ($68 billion) to key countries of origin for migrants, particularly Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal. The idea is to improve internal conditions in these countries and give their people incentive to stay on rather than risk their lives to go abroad. The program would also fund Lebanon and Jordan to promote private investment.

The commission also wants African countries and Pakistan and Afghanistan to make it easier to readmit people who do not win refugee status.

“There will be consequences for those that refuse to cooperate,” Dutchman Timmermans told the European Parliament, alongside EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The European Commission is also set to unveil a plan for a ‘blue card’ system for skilled migrants to come to Europe legally. The aim is to reduce the desperation for people to try to smuggle themselves into the continent on risky boats and put themselves in potentially dangerous conditions.

“If we ever want to compete with the US Green Card, we need an EU Blue Card that deserves the same merit,” Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

Brussels has been seeking ways to clamp down on the Africa route after a deal with Ankara in March slashed numbers trying to cross from Turkey. Crossings on the deadly route between Libya and Italy have dropped sharply since a controversial deal between the EU and Turkey designed to halt the flow of largely Syrian migrants across the Aegean Sea.

“We cannot tolerate the loss of life on this scale. we need to do everything to stop it,” said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

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