Geneva- Another dreadful year for migrants and asylum seekers came to an end with the highest percentage of deaths in the Mediterranean of the total number of migrants who risked their lives while seeking a safe haven in Europe, reports the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
When analyzing statistics provided by UNHCR In 2017, it reveals that the Mediterranean route to Europe remained the most dangerous worldwide. This year’s percentage of deaths to migrant arrivals by sea is the highest compared to previous years, although the numbers of migrants and asylum seekers who traveled using death-boats this year dropped to half compared to 2016.
The percentage of deaths among the total number of migrants by sea reached 1.38% in 2016, whereas this percentage increased to 1.76% in 2017. This means that in 2017 there was a total rise of 27% in the percentage of those who died in the sea, says the non-profit Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor.
The EU has succeeded in decreasing the number of arrivals to its shores; meanwhile, it has constantly failed to rescue those who are drowning every day, which - Euro-Med Monitor says - is “disgraceful”. In this regard, the non-profit organization is urging the EU to put more efforts to support the rescue missions in the Mediterranean in order to decrease the mounting rates of deaths.
This percentage may rise even higher in 2018 with the establishment of a new, more dreadful route in the Western Mediterranean since the Italian-Libyan deal in February 2017, warns the Euro-Med Monitor. While the number of arrivals from death-boats journeys in the Central Mediterranean route was rapidly dropping after the deal, the number in the Western Mediterranean road to Spain was three times higher compared to 2016. “This road appears to be the fatalist of all Mediterranean routes to Europe as in December alone the number of deaths in the Western Mediterranean is double than Central Mediterranean with no deaths on Eastern One” says Ihsan Adel, Euro-Med Monitor Legal Adviser.
This deal which aimed at holding migrants back from reaching Europe through Libya is not the only attempt by Europe to shirk responsibility by pushing refugees behind its borders and put the burden on unstable and weak countries. 2017 witnessed similar deals between Germany and Tunisia (in March), and Germany and Egypt (in August).
Euro-Med Monitor is warning of the fatal humanitarian consequences of such deals on refugees and migrants who remained trapped in extremely poor conditions in these countries, not to mention the human rights abuses and violations they are systematically subjected to. For instance, the Italian-Libyan deal exposed around one million refugees and migrants trapped in Libya to unbearable violations; such as rape, detention, physical and sexual torture, human enslavement and many others practiced by the governmental forces and the smugglers alike. Despite the UNHCR’s recent missions to rescue some of the captivated refugees in the Libyan official detention centres, Euro-Med Monitor is yet deeply concerned about those huge numbers of still-trapped refugees and migrants.
On the other hand, the consequences of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal are still apparent throughout 2017. About 70,000 refugees are suffering of high rates of suicide and depression while waiting in Greek and Serbian holding camps for deportation to Turkey, stated Euro-Med Monitor.
Inside the European Union, 2017 was another year of severe lack of coordination among the EU countries to tackle the ongoing refugee crisis. Whereas, numbers of migrant arrivals and asylum seekers (either by sea or land) significantly dropped to 181,543 (around 85,662 of them are from Syria). In 2016 however, migrants and asylum seekers was roughly 1200.000 (with over 300.000 from Syria), and the EU response is still weak.
In this regard, the Euro-Med Monitor condemns the failure of the relocation program that was designed to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other European countries by September 2017. “After two years, only 18 percent of the refugees had been relocated. Countries as Hungary and Poland has refused to accept a single refugee, while Slovakia and Czech Republic accepted only 16 and 12 persons respectively” says Adel. “The only way of ensuring a dignified life for the huge numbers of refugees waiting in transit countries (Greece and Italy) is sharing the burden. The EU countries should finally fulfil their obligations as more and more refugees are entering every year”, adds Adel.
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the European Union to take more positive positions and steps to provide protection and asylum for those fleeing the horrific situation in their war-torn countries. Instead of pushing them away from their borders to continue suffering in weak, poor and unstable countries or leave them to meet their fate in the death-boat journeys, the EU should open safe routes for the refugees seeking protection.
Euro-Med Monitor also calls on the EU to activate more effectively the rescue missions for those who are sinking in the Mediterranean. Euro-Med Monitor further calls on the EU countries to fairly share the burden to ensure a dignified life for all the refugees. The crisis could be turned into a privilege if handled correctly. The refugee arrivals could become a productive part of the EU community if only they were integrated and accepted by the EU countries instead of being left as a heavy burden.