While migrant arrivals crossing the Mediterranean have reduced dramatically over the last two years, the proportion of deaths per attempted crossing has spiked. An analysis of recent data by UNHCR and the Missing Migrants Project shows that over the last six months, 28 of every 1,000 migrants died undertaking the boat journey over the Mediterranean. That figure is not far off the all-time high set in early 2017.
Until 2016, migrants undertook the dangerous sea journey across the Aegean Sea in their bid to reach Greece. But that route was effectively closed off once the European Union (EU) signed a deal with Turkey in 2016, which saw Turkey receive billions in aid in return for agreeing to take back migrants who cross over to Greece.
One of the few routes left for migrants was the Central Mediterranean route. With the devastating civil war in Libya, and restrictive fences and border patrols at other routes, more migrants who opted for the Central Mediterranean route believed they were less likely to be returned if detected by authorities. But this route, in which migrants can be stranded at sea for weeks, remains the most dangerous.Just last week, more than 200 migrants drowned at sea in the Mediterranean.
But even the Central Mediterranean route is slowly being cordoned off. In November 2017, the EU signed a controversial deal with Libyan authorities to intercept migrants and return them to detention centers. The Italian government, with the backing of the EU, has also severely restricted NGO rescue boasts in the area. The UN described the deal as “inhuman,” while campaigners have accused the Libyan coast guard of abandoning migrants at sea.