Hidden Emergency: Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean
The number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, a sea with many busy shipping lanes where international law and centuries of custom oblige ships to assist those in need, is shocking.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 1,500 people died in the Mediterranean in 2011 alone, making it the deadliest year on record. Fortress Europe, an internet blog that tracks deaths of those seeking to reach Europe, puts the number at over 2,000. The real number may be even higher.
Political upheaval and armed conflict in North Africa last year created particular circumstances that may have led to more people embarking on even more dangerous crossings. Yet, migration to Europe by those fleeing persecution or just seeking a better life is a regular, yearly phenomenon, and so too are deaths at sea. According to Fortress Europe, over 13,500 people have died attempting these crossings since 1998.
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