Rabat – At least 843 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe between January 1 and August 8, 2019. The majority of those, 578, died while attempting to cross at the “central Mediterranean” route, which extends from Libya to Italy.
The figures, from the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project, indicate the incredible risks migrants take when making the passage.
At the same time as deaths of migrants taking the central Mediterranean route are rising, Italy has been increasing its restrictions on migrant-rescue operations. The Italian Parliament has introduced penalties on humanitarian boats engaged in the search and rescue of migrants.
The boats are not allowed to dock in Italy with migrants aboard. The government can seize the rescue boats and fine captains €1 million. Rotunno noted his agency is “very very worried about the search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean Sea that has been very very weakened in the last few years.”
Italy’s new restrictions are backed by its far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini. Salvini has been serving in the role since June 2018 and is known for his anti-migrant stance.
While the central Mediterranean route to Europe has claimed 578 lives, the western route, from Morocco to Spain, has seen 208 migrants die so far in 2019. The majority of the deceased migrants died just in the months of January and March.
The combined death rate for crossing the Mediterranean, including western, central, and eastern passages, is actually slightly lower in 2019 (1.2%) than in the same months in 2018 (1.5%).