UN Reports Record Number of Migrants Crossing Seas

World | December 11, 2014, Thursday // 12:11
Bulgaria: UN Reports Record Number of Migrants Crossing Seas United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. Photo: EPA

The United Nations Refugee Agency warned that the international community was faced with increasing difficulties to respond to the growing number of people making dangerous sea journeys in search of asylum or migration.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that some governments were increasingly concerned with keeping foreigners out in times when a record number of people are fleeing wars.

According to the data available, 348 000 people have risked their lives in such journeys since the beginning of 2014, making it a record high.

Migration remains the main factor behind these crossings, but the number of asylum-seekers has grown this year.

Europe, which is surrounded by conflicts to its south (Libya), east (Ukraine) and south-east (Syria and Iraq), has seen the highest number of sea arrivals.

Since the beginning of the year more than 207 000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea, which is almost three times the previous record number of about 70 000 in 2011, when the civil war in Libya was at its height.

In addition to the Mediterranean, there are at least three other major sea routes in the world that are used by migrants and asylum-seekers – the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

What is most worrying is that many of these people die or become victims of international organised crime during the sea journeys.

The UNHCR reports of 4 272 such deaths this year, with the majority of them - 3 419 having occurred in the Mediterranean, which makes it the deadliest route in the world.

Meanwhile, human smuggling networks were proliferating in the areas of conflict and instability.

The High Commissioner criticised the migration policy of some governments, and called on them to address the real causes, finding out why people are fleeing, what prevents them from seeking asylum by safer means, and how can criminal networks be dealt with while protecting the victims.

This year the High Commisioner's Dialogue, that takes place on Wednesday and Thursday, gathers representatives of governments, non-governmental organisations, coast guard and academics as well as partner international organisations.

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Tags: N, UNHCR, Migration, Asylum, refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants, Mediterranean, sea journeys, deaths
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