Published: June 09, 2019
General view of the border fence separating the Spanish exclave of Ceuta from Morocco | Alexander Koerner/Getty Images UN warns Mediterranean could become ‘sea of blood’ without rescue ships Data shows around 20 percent of people attempting to cross to the EU died.
The number of deaths on the Mediterranean Sea will increase dramatically if rescue boats aren't deployed as more people attempt to cross from North Africa, the U.N. warned Sunday.
“If we do not intervene soon, there will be a sea of blood,” said U.N. Refugee Agency spokeswoman Carlotta Sami, according to the Guardian.
Thousands are reportedly preparing to leave Libya on ships as the country suffers from war and floods. But a lack of rescue boats will put their lives at risk, Sami said. Around 350 people have died on the journey to the EU so far this year, or 20 percent of those who attempted the crossing, according to U.N. data.
“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. They couldn’t care less if the people arrive dead or alive,” said Sami, adding that ships departing in recent days were “overflowing with people."
Rescue efforts have decreased as Italian and Maltese politicians have ramped up criticism of organizations that search for shipwrecked people. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, for example, closed the country's ports to aid group ships, accusing them of working with people traffickers.