DPA, 03rd SEPTEMBER, 2018- The risk of dying in the central Mediterranean Sea has jumped to one in 18 for migrants this year as non-governmental rescue ships are facing difficulties on this key route to Europe, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Monday.
Last year, one in 42 migrants died or went missing while trying to sail to Italy on the central Mediterranean between January and July.
“A major factor contributing to the increased death rate is the decreased search and rescue capacity off the Libyan coast this year,” the Geneva-based UNHCR said, noting that two vessels of the Libyan coast guard have effectively taken over the rescue work that was handled by eight NGO vessels in 2017. While humanitarian rescue groups have reported harassment and threats from the Libyan coast guard, they have also faced landing blockades and legal punishment in Italy.
UNHCR noted that refugees and migrants are now “travelling on overcrowded and unsafe vessels for long periods and over further distances prior to detection and rescue..” Among the more than 1,600 people who have died or gone missing while trying to reach Europe on various routes since January, 1,095 have perished in the central Mediterranean.