Drowned migrants and ‘a failure of compassion’

April 21, 2015

Already, this week’s migrant deaths in the Mediterranean are hard to tally.

As many as 900 refugees died in a shipwreck off of Libya on Sunday, the day before two other boats carrying 400 people faced distress off of Libya and three migrants died when yet another boat ran aground in Greece. As this Reuters graphic shows, the vast majority of illegal border crossings over the Mediterranean happen via central and eastern sea routes, a fact reflected in this week’s disasters. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the Mediterranean was by far the world’s deadliest migrant sea crossing in 2014, swallowing 3,419 of the 4,272 refugee fatalities reported globally.

Last year more than 200,000 boat people crossed the Mediterranean, more than half of the estimated 350,000 monitored worldwide, and triple the previous high of 70,000 established in 2011 during the height of the Libyan civil war. Worse yet, the International Organization for Migration reports dramatic increases in both refugees and deaths in the beginning of 2015.

On Monday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticized the callousness of the EU’s approach to refugees, calling Mediterranean migrant deaths “the result of a continuing failure of governance accompanied by a monumental failure of compassion.”

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