Migrants to Europe facing greater dangers

A new UNHCR report covering Mediterranean migration from January 2017 to March 2018, shows that the dangers migrants face while attempting the perilous journeys to Europe have increased considerably.

According to the report, Desperate Journeys, the number of people reaching Italy from Libya decreased by 74 per cent in the first three months of 2018 compared to the same period last year. However, the share of those migrants who lost their lives along the way more than doubled.

Between January and March 2018, one person died for every 14 migrants crossing the sea, compared to one death for every 29 arrivals in the first three months of 2017. The rate of deaths has also almost doubled among those crossing from Morocco and Algeria to Spain in the same period.

“Journeys to and through Europe for refugees and migrants remain fraught with danger,” said Pascale Moreau, director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau, as he introduced the report on 11 April.

According to the report, conditions in Libya and along the migration routes have been worsening. More migrants reaching Europe in recent months have arrived extremely weak, thin and in very poor health conditions. A significant share of them experienced trafficking, torture, sexual violence and other abuses prior to boarding boats in Libya.

Migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean risk drowning aboard unstable and overcrowded boats, which are sent out to sea carrying people many times their capacity.

The reports findings also shows that those trying to cross the sea to Italy face the increased prospect of interception by the Libyan coastguard, which has scaled up its operations since July 2017. Migrants intercepted by the Libyan coastguard risk being returned to Libya and kept in inhumane conditions in detention for lengthy periods until they can be returned to their countries of origin.

Migrants and refugees also endure abuses and extortion at the hands of traffickers, smugglers or armed groups along various routes to Europe with reports of human traffickers demanding as much as $10,000 from individuals for transportation to Europe.

Within Europe, increased restrictions and “push backs” have compelled migrants to take alternative and often-dangerous routes to move to their destinations.

The report also found that women and girls, as well as some men and boys, especially those travelling on their own, and unaccompanied children, remain particularly exposed to risks of sexual and gender-based violence along the routes as well as in some locations within Europe.

Once children arrive in European countries, lengthy waiting periods for asylum applications, slow family reunification processes and limited access to relocation mechanisms compound the challenges, according to the report.

At least 501 people have died or gone missing while traveling to Europe since the beginning of 2018.

TMP – 18/04/2018

Photo credit: UNICEF/Georgiev. Walking along the train tracks connecting Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a migrant woman carries a young boy as a young girl holds on to the back of her jacket.