More than 2,500 migrants attempting Mediterranean crossing lost in 2023, UN says

Arrivals in Greece this year surged by more than 300%, while Italy received 130,000, annual increase of 83%

Migrants arrive on an Italian coastguard vessel after being rescued near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Reuters
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More than 2,500 migrants have lost their lives or gone missing in 2023 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, the UN said on Thursday.

The central Mediterranean, known for being the most dangerous route for migrants in the world, witnessed an alarming surge in migration this year.

The International Organisation for Migration recorded 2,778 deaths – a significant increase from 1,680 fatalities and disappearances in 2022.

The Mediterranean has a long history of human migration, but it has gained global attention in recent years due to the skyrocketing numbers of people seeking asylum and opportunities by crossing its waters.

In total, about 186,000 people arrived by sea in southern Europe from January to September 24, landing in Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta.

Arrivals in Greece this year surged by more than 300 per cent, while Italy received 130,000, an increase of 83 per cent compared to 2022.

“The situation on Lampedusa is reason for serious concern,” warned Ruven Menikdiwela, representative of the UN refugee commissioner, who was briefing the Security Council on the situation in the high seas off Libya.

She stressed that Italy cannot be left on its own in responding to the needs of the arriving migrants.

“The UN has repeatedly called for the establishment of an agreed regional disembarkation and redistribution mechanism for people who arrive by sea, in a spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity with frontline states,” she revealed.

An estimated 102,000 refugees and migrants also tried to cross from Tunisia to Europe and 45,000 from Libya, risking “death and gross human rights violations at every step”, the UN official said.

The EU is on track to receive more than one million asylum seekers this year – the biggest number since 2015 and 2016, when it saw a huge influx of migrants, mainly Syrians fleeing the war in their country.

France’s UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere spoke on his country's commitment to countering the trafficking and smuggling of people from Libya “in the absence of a state which favours the smuggling and trafficking of persons as well as militia”.

“This is why France is committed to supporting the establishment of Libyan state which is stable and unified – the only way to put an end to this trafficking,” he said.

Updated: September 29, 2023, 3:14 AM