UNICEF said Friday (29/9) the number of people killed along the migrant route in the central Mediterranean Sea has tripled in recent months compared with the same period last year.
UNICEF Refugee and Migrant Coordinator for Europe and Central Asia Regina De Dominicis told a press conference in Geneva that from June to August, at least 990 people died or went missing in the central part of the Mediterranean Sea route between North Africa and Europe, compared with 334 deaths a year earlier.
The UN Children’s Fund did not say how many of the dead or missing were children, but said 11,600 unaccompanied minors had crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy between January and mid-September, up 60 percent from the period. the same one last year.
“The Mediterranean Sea has become a graveyard for children and their future,” De Dominicis told reporters.
He said government policies in the region prevented effective search and rescue at sea. He called for a widespread response from Europe to support children and families seeking asylum and to increase international assistance.
UNICEF said the southern Italian island of Lampedusa had become the first port of call for those seeking asylum in Europe. The UN agency said the number of those arriving there reached its peak this month, with 4,800 people arriving in one day. Italian officials say the number is closer to 7,000.
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen has promised tough action against traffickers and stepped up efforts to repatriate migrants who do not qualify for asylum.
In a statement at the UN Security Council in New York last Thursday, Ruven Menikdiwela, director of the UN refugee agency’s New York office, said that as of September 24, more than 2,500 migrants had died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea – overall so far this year – than with 1,680 people in the same period last year. (uh/lt)