Geneva- Migrant refugees are facing a huge humanitarian crisis while attempting to across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, warns the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, noting that the number of drowning migrants and asylum seekers is still rising significantly despite the decline in their numbers compared to the previous years.
The number of migrants seeking to reach Europe during the first 100 days of 2018 (until April 11) fell by 50% compared to the same period in 2017, notes the Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor, adding that: the number of drowned migrants remains alarmingly high.
Last year, around 24 in every 1,000 arrivals in Europe by sea have drowned. This year, the figure has risen to 33 in every 1,000 arrivals. Most of arrivals in Europe this year sailed off the Libyan coast to Italy.
“The number of arrivals through Libya to Italy dropped significantly following the EU-Libya agreement in August last year. As a result, migrants are overcrowding detention centers in Libya under difficult humanitarian conditions,” said Ihsan Adel, Euro-Med legal adviser.
One in every 14 arrivals died this year en route to Italy, compared to one in every 29 during the same period last year, according to the UNHCR's regular statistics.
The EU-Turkish deal of March 2016 and the closure of the Balkan route have led to a significant reduction in the number of arrivals to Greece compared to previous years.
Most of those arriving in Italy are migrants from African countries. The majority of those arriving in Spain are either Syrian asylum seekers or migrants from Morocco and Algeria, said Adel. In Greece, most of arrivals are from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.
Statistics by the International Organization for Migration indicate that about 16,847 migrants arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean in 2018, compared to 33,602 migrants during the same period last year. About 6,894 migrants by sea arrived in Italy across the Mediterranean until April 11 this year, while 6,407 migrants arrived in Greece and 3,499 arrived in Spain.
Over 550 migrant deaths occurred in the Mediterranean out of the 933 deaths registered worldwide via all routes this year.
A boat carrying a number of migrants sank off the coast of the Moroccan city of Tangier. The Moroccan authorities found the bodies of six migrants, including four Moroccan citizens. Meanwhile, about 10 people suffered injuries during the incident. According to eyewitnesses, there were about 46 people aboard, which means that about 30 people are still missing.
The EU said that two migrants drowned as they crossed the Kupa (Kolpa) River, at the southern border of Slovenia with Croatia. The authorities said they found the body of a 19-year-old Moroccan young man, while the other was an Algerian citizen, noting that they lost their lives as they crossed this river.
Smugglers send a large number of overcrowded and mostly precarious boats all at once, risking migrant lives and complicating the work of the few rescue vessels and ships. The European Union did not commission an official rescue operation, further endangering migrant lives.
Migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Greece are suffering from tragic and poor humanitarian circumstances in the Greek islands. Those in Samos island are forced to live in a crowded reception center for asylum seekers and migrants, suffering from water and electricity shortages, sexual violence and discrimination, and inadequate hygiene and health resources.
Migrants arriving in European coastal countries via difficult routes try to cross to other countries in northern and western Europe. However, they are exploited and attacked by smugglers and armed gangs. This is especially hard for unaccompanied children, who make up 13% of all migrants. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 75 people died on land routes whether inside Europe or at its borders in 2017.
Instead of rescuing and welcoming refugees and migrants to Europe, the European Union sought rather to kick them away, said Adel, referring to the failure of the resettlement program designed by EU countries and the absence of a joint EU operation to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.
Instead of sharing the burden of integrating asylum seekers and migrants in their countries, EU countries are only making deals and agreements with transit countries such as Turkey, Libya and Egypt to prevent migrants and refugees from reaching to Europe, explained Adel.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the international community to take collective responsibility towards asylum seekers and migrants and to speed up the adoption of a new asylum convention.
Euro-Med Monitor also calls on the EU countries to take a decisive stance on violations against refugees and migrants in Europe, to do more to rescue migrant boats in the Mediterranean and to open the routes for safe access to European countries.