Over 2,000 Have Died Trying to Reach Europe in 2017

Published July 5th, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
Migrants wait to disembark from the Aquarius rescue Ship run by NGO S.O.S. Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the port of Salerno after a rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea, on May 26 2017. (Carlo Hermann/AFP)
Migrants wait to disembark from the Aquarius rescue Ship run by NGO S.O.S. Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres in the port of Salerno after a rescue operation in the Mediterranean sea, on May 26 2017. (Carlo Hermann/AFP)
More than 100,000 refugees have made the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in 2017, with 2,247 dying in the process.
 
Between January 1 and July 3 more than 85,000 people landed in Italy, 9,300 in Greece, and nearly 6,500 in Spain, often travelling in nothing more than rickety boats, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
 
More than 270 also landed in Cyprus, the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
 
While the numbers are staggering, they remain much lower than during the same period last year, when 231,503 people had made the crossing to Europe.
 
The 100,000 mark was passed by February in 2016, but at that time most migrants and refugees were crossing from Turkey to Greece and an EU deal with Ankara effectively stopped that movement after being signed in March.
 
So far in 2017, Italy has taken in nearly 85 percent of the people crossing to Europe, and Rome will host a meeting of European and African foreign ministers on Thursday to address the crisis.
 
Italy has been pushing other European countries to open their ports for rescue ships, while IOM chief William Lacy Swing appealed Thursday for more support for Italy.
 
"The reception of rescued migrants cannot be seen as an issue only for Italy, but a matter for Europe as a whole," he said in a statement.
 
The UN refugee agency has also warned that Italy cannot continue absorbing the tens of thousands of migrants and refugees landing on its shores on its own.
 
"This is not sustainable. We need to have other countries joining Italy and sharing that responsibility," Vincent Cochetel, the agency's special envoy for the central Mediterranean, said on Monday.
 
The EU put in place a policy in 2015 to distribute around 160,000 asylum-seekers across different countries.
 
Only about 20,000 have been relocated from Italy and Greece under the scheme, while Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have flatly refused to take part. 

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