A new video from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) aims to clarify the scale of the migrant crisis in Europe, as the numbers of people traveling across the Mediterranean, from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Nigeria, continue to climb.
The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe in the first six months of 2015 increased more than 80 percent increase from the same time period in 2014, the UNHCR report said.
Syria, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, accounted for almost 44,000 people, representing 34 per cent of the immigrants, making them the largest group coming to Europe’s shores.
Many refugees who attempt the crossing don’t make it. The report highlights that April was particularly bleak for refugee deaths, when an unprecedented 1,308 refugees and migrants drowned or went missing, compared to 42 in April 2014. After worldwide sea patrols were stepped up, the number fell to 68 in May and the downward trend continued with 12 in June, the report said.
“Europe is living through a maritime refugee crisis of historic proportions”, its report says.
“Europe has a clear responsibility to help those seeking protection from war and persecution”, said UNHCR chief António Guterres.
“The decline in people drowning over the past two months [May and June] is encouraging; a sign that with the right policy, backed by an effective operational response, it is possible to save more lives at sea”, acknowledged Mr. Guterres.
Refugees and migrants have been pouring into the western Balkans from Greece and since the beginning of June, over 1,000 people have been entering every day “as opposed to 200 just a couple weeks ago”, the report said.
The report also noted a shift in migration patterns, with the number of people travelling the eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece now surpassing the route from North Africa to Italy. Italy as at 29 June is accommodating 67,500 refugees, while economically sapped Greece has 68,000 migrants on its territory.
“To deny that responsibility is to threaten the very building blocks of the humanitarian system Europe worked so hard to build”, he added.
“There are frequent reports of abuse and violence along the way by smugglers and criminal networks, as well as the increasing tightening of borders”, said UNHCR.