28, November 2017
Over 3,000 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean in a desperate bid to reach Europe’s shores since the start of the year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.
William Lacy Swing, the IOM director general, said in a statement in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday that the 3,033 deaths happened across three main sea routes in the Mediterranean.
“That mark (was) probably passed sometime over last weekend,” when more than 30 migrants died off the coast of Libya, the official added.
“We’ve been saying this for years and we’ll keep on saying it: It’s no longer enough to simply count these tragic statistics. We must also act.”
The latest figure so far represents a 40-percent drop compared to last year’s record of 5,000 drownings.
The number of refugees who have arrived in Europe this year is less than half of last year’s total of 348,000.
The flow has been stemmed by controversial deals between the European Union, Turkey and Libya. The 28-nation bloc has been desperate to slow the refugee influx via these two main routes,
The United Nations has, however, denounced as “inhuman” the EU’s cooperation with Libya.
The refugees are being held in “horrific” prisons and have even been auctioned off as slaves across the North African country.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recently said that the reported auctions of African refugees in Libya as slaves amount to “crimes against humanity.”
In October, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned that thousands of Libyan refugees were living in dire conditions in a hub to the west of the capital Tripoli, saying they could be exposed to abuse on a shocking scale.
Libya, gripped by chaos and lawlessness since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, was the main embarkation point for mostly African refugees seeking to head to Europe until recently.
Europe is facing an influx of refugees, who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. More than 1.5 million people have reached Europe since 2015.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in those regions, forcing more people to flee their homes.