The risk of migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean will rise significantly if more rescue vessels are not deployed soon, as thousands are people are preparing to leave war-torn Libya and head towards Europe, the UN warned on Sunday.
From the more than one million refugees and migrants who entered the European Union in 2015, sea arrivals plummeted to 141,500 in 2018, according to the UN. Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the UN’s Refugee Agency, said, according to the Guardian. “We are witnessing a sharp increase in departures.
Scores of EU-bound migrants are reportedly gearing up to leave Libya by boat as the war-hit country suffers devastating floods. But the lack of humanitarian ships patrolling the Mediterranean will put their lives at risk, Mrs Sami said.
Out of the 10 rescue vessels that were active across the Mediterranean in recent years, only one – run by the German charity SeaWatch – remains. But while the number of migrants reaching EU shores is falling, the bloc remains deeply divided over how to handle migration and refugees.
A group of international lawyers said last week that EU states should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity over the migrant sea deaths.
The lawyers also slammed the bloc’s “deterrence-based migration policy, intended to sacrifice the lives of migrants in distress at sea”.
“Instead of immediately rescuing and bringing … the civilian population in distress at sea to safety, the EU has facilitated the death of thousands by drowning, before introducing a comprehensive system of forced deportations to concentration camp-like detention facilities,” lawyer Juan Branco told AFP.
More than 12,000 people have drowned at sea in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the EU migrant crisis in 2014.