More than 5,000 people die in Mediterranean in 2016 – UNHCR

Migrant boat used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: CBC]
Migrant boat used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: CBC]

The number of causalities in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016 has crossed 5,000 with the latest reports of about 100 people feared to have drowned, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2016 is the worst annual death toll ever seen.

The UN refugee agency has, therefore, called on countries to increase pathways for admission of refugees, following the latest tragedy.

Attributing reports from the Italian Coastguard, William Spindler, spokesperson for UNHCR, said that in two separate incidents, rubber dinghies collapsed and those on board fell into the sea.

“Only 63 people survived after the dinghy collapsed and passengers fell into the water.

“The second dinghy was carrying about 120 people and 80 were rescued by the Coastguard,” he added.

Mr. Spindler said some 175 people from another dinghy and a wooden boat were rescued.

According to the UNHCR official, eight bodies were also recovered during the operations.

Spindler further stressed that these incidents highlight the need to increase pathways for admission of refugees.

He said the pathways should include resettlement, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes, among others, so that they could avoid dangerous journeys and the use of smugglers.

He added that declining quality of the vessels used by people smugglers, the vagaries of the weather and the tactics used by them to avoid detection might be the root causes of the recent increase in deaths.

“These include sending large numbers of embarkations simultaneously, which makes the work of rescuers more difficult,” the spokesperson said, underlining the severity of the challenges.

UNHCR data shows that in 2016, an average of 14 people died every day in the Mediterranean Sea.

This is the highest number ever recorded, according to the UN refugee agency.

In 2015, with over a million people crossing the Mediterranean, 3,771 casualties were recorded.



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