Mediterranean Sea crossings exceed 300,000 this year: UN refugee agency

August 29, 2015 5:17 am 

GENEVA, Aug. 28 — The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR on Friday said the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year has now exceeded 300,000, including almost 200,000 people landing in Greece and 110,000 in Italy.

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 Thursday's tragedy off Libya where numbers of deaths are still unconfirmed.

On Thursday, two boats carrying approximately 500 refugees and migrants were intercepted and survivors taken to shore in Libya. An estimated 200 people are still missing and feared dead. A still undetermined number of bodies were recovered and taken to shore.

In 2014, around 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean, some 3,500 people died or were reported missing.

Despite the concerted efforts of the joint European search and rescue operation, which has saved tens of thousands of lives this year, the Mediterranean Sea continues to be the deadliest route for refugees and migrants.

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.

UNHCR appealed to all governments involved to provide comprehensive responses and act with humanity and in accordance with their international obligations.

While these numbers are overwhelming for the already overstretched capacity of single countries, such as Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia or Germany, they are manageable through collaborative and coordinated responses at the European level.

UNHCR called on all European countries and the EU to act together in response to the growing emergency and demonstrate responsibility and solidarity. (PNA/Xinhua)

RMA/RSM

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