Published: June 12, 2019
From the more than one million refugees and migrants who entered the bloc in 2015, sea arrivals plummeted to 141,500 in 2018, according to the UN. But the crisis is far from over. “If we do not intervene soon, there will be a sea of blood,” Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the UN’s Refugee Agency, said, according to the Guardian. “We are witnessing a sharp increase in departures. Obviously, migrants have no say in how or when to leave. The traffickers make that decision for them.
LIBYA CRISIS: 800,000 migrants could soon head for EU as war rages
“They couldn’t care less if the people arrive dead or alive,” she continued, adding that migrant boats departing from the north African coast are “overflowing with people”.
Scores of EU-bound migrants are reportedly gearing up to leave Libya by boat as the war-hit country suffers devastating floods. But the lack of humanitarian ships patrolling the Mediterranean will put their lives at risk, Mrs Sami said.
Out of the 10 rescue vessels that were active across the Mediterranean in recent years, only one – run by the German charity SeaWatch – remains.
Roughly 350 people have died making the perilous sea crossing from north Africa to the EU so far this year, according to UN data.
Anti-immigration policies introduced by the Maltese and Italian governments have driven the sharp decrease in rescue missions.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has taken a notably tough stance against humanitarian rescue operations, accusing them of colluding with migrant smugglers in Libya who pack migrants into flimsy boats.
Mr Salvini’s position has created numerous standoffs with fellow European Union nations and humanitarian groups. But the populist government in Rome has tightened its immigration rules and barred rescue ships from entering Italian ports, despite the criticism.