Photo: c UNHCD/ A. McConnell
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 300,000 refugees and migrants have used the dangerous sea route across the Mediterranean so far this year with almost 200,000 of them landing in Greece and a further 110,000 in Italy. Across headlines this week, we have seen images of refugees cramped and crowded on the ground, awaiting their fate.
Perhaps the most disturbing image is that of three year-old Aylan Kurdi, who was found dead after drowning when his family attempted for the third time to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
The Guardian reported that a toll of 2,500 people have died this summer while trying to cross and seek a better life.
“At the same time, some 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing this year, trying to reach Europe. This death toll does not include yesterday’s tragedy off Libya where numbers of deaths are still unconfirmed,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a press briefing in Geneva last Friday.
Fleming said that despite the concerted efforts of the joint European search and rescue operation under FRONTEX, which has saved tens of thousands of lives this year, the Mediterranean Sea continues to be the “deadliest route for refugees and migrants.”
Fleming added that many of the people arriving by sea in southern Europe, particularly in Greece, come from countries affected by violence and conflict, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; they are in need of international protection and they are often physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said that Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, would take a “clear and obvious message” to a meeting in Brussels on Thursday with EU chiefs about the migration crisis.