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Central Mediterranean Route Situation Supplementary Appeal January - December 2018

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  • Refugees and migrants continue to move in large numbers from Sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
  • Libya remains the main point of departure for the majority of refugees and migrants from Africa hoping to reach Europe.
  • While on the move, refugees and migrants face intolerably high risks of grave human rights violations and death.
  • UNHCR is rolling out a three-pronged cross-regional strategy with broad objectives and selected activities in the countries of origin and transit in Sub-Saharan Africa, and countries in North Africa and Europe.
  • In order to assist an estimated 656,280 people of concern by the end 2018, UNHCR is appealing for $226.6 million for January to December 2018.


The central Mediterranean route, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Italy, is one of the most active and dangerous, currently accounting for the largest number of people crossing to Europe by sea.
Libya remains the main point of departure for the majority of refugees and migrants from Africa seeking to reach Europe. These mixed movements include people fleeing persecution, conflict and violence as well as those looking for better economic and social opportunities, including means to support family members at home. Many are not headed to Libya or Europe when they initially leave their country of origin, while others are ultimately trafficked to Europe.

Despite a significant decrease in arrivals in Europe in 2017, refugees and migrants continue to put themselves at grave risk, both on land and at sea, in their attempts to reach Europe. In 2017, an estimated 2,800 refugees and migrants perished or went missing in the central Mediterranean Sea. It is estimated that many more have died on their way crossing the desert and before attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, due to the many dangers faced along the routes and in Libya.

The lack of appropriate asylum systems and prospects for solutions for people in need of international protection—including voluntary repatriation, resettlement, local integration and other legal pathways—as well as the reduced assistance standards in several asylum countries and the weak protection environment compels many of them to move onwards. The majority of refugees and migrants arriving in Italy by sea are from Sub-Saharan Africa. Between January and December 2017, 11 per cent of the total arrivals were from East and Horn of Africa, while approximately 41 per cent were from West Africa and 10 per cent from North Africa.

While many refugee-hosting countries have continued showing remarkable commitment and generosity towards those in need of international protection, their capacities are overstretched. In some instances, protection space has diminished and serious gaps have emerged in asylum and reception systems.

With the underlying factors compelling people to undertake such dangerous journeys remaining largely unaddressed, it is highly likely that the central Mediterranean route will continue to be active in 2018. Illustrating this, since January 2018, about 5,300 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy via this route. Accordingly, UNHCR and its partners will need to work with States to continue providing international protection and assistance as well as greater access to solutions, including safe and legal pathways.
In this context, and as presented in this Supplementary Appeal, UNHCR is rolling out a threepronged cross-regional strategy with broad objectives and selected activities in the countries of origin and transit in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Libya and North Africa countries, in transit countries and in Europe.
Recognizing the complexity of mixed movements today, UNHCR will support, wherever possible, measures that reduce the risk for people undertaking these dangerous journeys, working to enhance protection and solution opportunities in countries of origin and transit.

UNHCR will aim to increase options for legal pathways towards safety as well as improve the protection space available for asylum-seekers and refugees. UNHCR will also seek to strengthen synergy with activities implemented by other organizations such as IOM, UNICEF and those NGOs responding to the needs of refugees and migrants using the same route.

This Supplementary Appeal presents UNHCR’s strategic objectives, priorities and financial requirements for its response to mixed movements. UNHCR is seeking $226.6 million, including $102.5 million in additional financial requirements from January to December 2018.