UN: 3,000+ migrants died in sea trying to reach Europe in 2021
The UNHCR warns against the surging death of refugees trying to reach Europe through sea and land routes and launches an appeal to help provide protection and solutions for refugees.
More than 3,000 people died in the Mediterranean and Atlantic while trying to reach Europe last year - double the toll from 2020, the United Nations announced on Friday.
Last year, a total of 3,077 people were lost while trying to cross the Mediterranean and Atlantic routes to the continent, compared to 1,544 in 2020, the report showed.
UNHCR Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva that "alarmingly, since the beginning of the year, an additional 478 people have also died or gone missing at sea."
The report showed that in 2021, 1,924 people were reported dead or missing on the Central and Western Mediterranean routes, while another 1,153 perished on the North African maritime route to the Canary Islands.
Mantoo pointed out that "most of the sea crossings took place in packed, unseaworthy, inflatable boats, many of which capsized or were deflated leading to the loss of life."
She indicated that "many boats drifted off course or otherwise went missing without trace in these waters," adding that the crossing could take up to 10 days.
17,000+ dead or missing along Central Mediterranean route
The increase in deaths at sea came amid a surge in the number of crossings. The UNHCR report showed that 53,323 migrants arrived by boat in Italy last year - an 83% hike over 2020.
In addition, 23,042 arrived in the Canary Islands, nearly the same number as a year earlier, the report mentioned.
The report also noted a 61% increase in departures from Tunisia compared to 2020, while departures from Libya increased by 150%. They took the Central Mediterranean route, which is the world's deadliest.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 17,000 people have died or gone missing along this route since 2014.
"A myriad of abuses" along these routes
The UNHCR cautioned that land routes were also "highly dangerous".
"Even greater numbers may have died on journeys through the Sahara desert and remote border areas, in detention centres, or while in the captivity of smugglers or traffickers," Mantoo highlighted.
Migrants along all of these routes face a "litany of abuses," she indicated, pointing to "extrajudicial killings, unlawful and arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour, slavery (and) forced marriage."
Alongside the release of its report, the UN refugee agency launched an appeal for $163.5 million to help provide protection and solutions for refugees and others traveling along the dangerous routes to Europe.
"UNHCR is appealing for support to help provide meaningful alternatives to these dangerous journeys and prevent people from becoming victims of traffickers," Mantoo confirmed.