At Least 20,000 Lives Lost In The Mediterranean

More than 20,000 migrants have died in their attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea and head to Europe since 2014, the European Commission has announced. More specifically, “since the beginning of 2021, a total of 1,369 migrants have died in the Mediterranean”.  

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has also reported that the migrant death toll in the first six months of the year was “no less than 1,146 people,” adding that the fatalities have doubled compared to the same period in 2020.

The number of people that have attempted to cross to Europe has risen by “58 percent during the period from January to June 2021 June this year compared to the same period last year,” the IOM pointed out.

Earlier this year, the Guardian newspaper reported that over 2,000 deaths were caused by EU member states’ pushing back actions against asylum seekers and refugees seeking to enter Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report revealed that some EU states such as Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia, and Spain have been using a series of coordinated tactics to push back thousands of asylum seekers and have profited from the pandemic to “accelerate hard-line agendas against the arrival of asylum seekers”, the Guardian’s Journalist Lorenzo Tondo described. They have been supposedly supported by the EU’s border agency, Frontex.

It is believed that in some countries, tactics such as the outsourcing of private vessels, the beating and abuse of captured refugees, and the abandonment of refugees at sea were used.

The Guardian’s analysis highlighted how Croatia used physical force to expel almost 18,000 asylum seekers since the pandemic started, as the Danish Refugee Council found out. In Greece, the Border Violence Monitoring Network has stated that with “disproportionate and excessive use of force”, 6,230 asylum seekers have been pushed back from its shores since January 2020.

In April 2021, Italy and Libya were accused of deliberately ignoring a mayday call from a migrant boat in distress in Libyan waters, as waves reached six meters. Particularly alarming is that, a few hours later, an NGO rescue boat discovered dozens of bodies floating in the waves. That day 130 migrants were lost at sea.

These countries present some contradictions. They face a huge shortage of young people but seem to prefer banning young migrants to enter the countries. As Director of Technology and Development and Senior Fellow, Charles Kenny explains, the fertility rate is 1.2 births per woman in Spain, 1.3 births in Italy, and below 1.5 in Greece and Portugal.

Under the UN forecast these 4 countries “will all see their working age population decline by more than 25%” adds Kenny. Additionally, young people do not find jobs which is causing a whole other emigration problem heightened since the financial crisis.

Countries must open their eyes to the catastrophic events that are pushing people to flee their homes seeking asylum. Not only is morally correct to grant them security but also, they can be a major part of the younger workforce in Western countries.

Some organizations and experts are even pointing to a bigger death toll, that goes unreported. According to the hotline service for distressed migrants at sea, Alarm Phone, “we have documented so many shipwrecks that were never officially accounted for, and so we know that the real death toll is much higher. In many of the cases, European coastguards have refused to respond – they rather chose to let people drown or to intercept them back to the place they had risked their lives to escape from.”

In this context, deaths at sea before and since the pandemic are directly or indirectly linked to the EU approach aimed at closing all doors to Europe.

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