137,000 people crossed Mediterranean in 1st half of 2015
Some 137,000 people have made the death-defying journey across the Mediterranean Sea to land in Europe in the first half of the current year, the United Nations says.
“Europe is living through a maritime refugee crisis of historic proportions,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres said in Wednesday statement.
The number of people seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean has raised 83 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in the previous year, Guterres added.
A vast number of the migrants set off from crisis-hit countries such as Syria, Iraq and Libya in an attempt to reach Italy or Malta.
“Most of the people arriving by sea in Europe are refugees, seeking protection from war and persecution,” Guterres noted, adding, “With the right policy, backed by an effective operational response, it is possible to save more lives at sea.”
Some 170,000 migrants entered the European Union through Italy last year, with most of them departing from Libya, according to reports.
At least 3,419 illegal migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea last year, while 1,867 have been killed so far this year, according to the UNHCR.