17.500 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean since 2014~ 2 min

refugee dead in Mediterranean
Image: Omran Daqneesh

By Víctor Boaventura

About 2.000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean since the beginning of this year, according to the information released last Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). During the last few years, the crossing of the Mediterranean has become the most deadly sea route for refugees and migrants in the world.

Half of the deaths were recorded in the central Mediterranean – between the North African coast and Italy. Just yesterday, the Spanish authorities stated that 17 migrants died this Monday when trying to disembark. There are still 20 people missing.

This is the fifth consecutive year that refugee deaths exceed the 2.000 mark. Nearly 17.500 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.

Several NGOs have suspended rescue operations due to logistical and legal restrictions from European governments which are taking increasingly racist measures. The refugees are demonized, in a clear populist exploitation of this human tragedy. This means that the number of search and rescue missions of shipwrecked people have decreased significantly.

Despite a decrease in the number of deaths and arrivals – in 2017 around 3.181 people lost their lives in the crossing – this does not mean that the situation has improved. The decrease in the flow of migrants in Greece and the Balkans is a directly caused by the agreement between the EU and Turkey to stop the refugee flow, which brutally overloaded the Libya-Italy route.

Libya – A hell for refugees

Some refugees arrive with numbers tattooed on their skin, like slaves. These are trademarks of present day Libya, a country which has become a hell for those who want to embark “illegally” from their shores towards Italy. When caught at sea, immigrants report all sorts of torture and abuse on the part of the barge owners, which in theory will take them to Europe. They are instead kidnapped, detained and sold in the public squares of Libya as slaves. 90% of women who have passed through the North African country report having been raped. Libya has become, since the intervention of David Cameron / Nicolas Sarkozy and the fall of Gaddafi, a fertile ground for mafias to act with total impunity.

The traffickers, taking advantage of the human misery, get to charge more than 6.000 euros per head to cross the Mediterranean sea, without the minimum of security guarantees. Those without money are sold, enslaved and / or used until their bodies can no longer resist, according to reports from the International Organization for Migration.

In order to maximize their activity, mafias use boats of poorer quality and transport more and more people per trip. According to the European Border Control Agency, traffickers carry an average of 120 to 130 people in 10-meter long rubber boats.

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