Migrants Risking Lives in Mediterranean Topped 45,000 in 2013: IOM

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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Migrants Risking Lives in Mediterranean Topped 45,000 in 2013: IOM

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Over 45,000 migrants risked their lives in the Mediterranean to reach Italy and Malta in 2013. The arrivals are the highest since 2008, with the exception of 2011 – the year of the Libyan crisis.

More than 42,900 landed in Italy and 2,800 landed in Malta. Of those who arrived in Italy, over 5,400 were women and 8,300 were minors – some 5,200 of them unaccompanied. Most of the landings took place in Lampedusa (14,700) and along the coast around Syracuse in Sicily (14,300).

“This year migration towards Italy's southern shores tells that there has been an increase in the number of people escaping from war and oppressive regimes,” says José Angel Oropeza, Director of IOM's Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.

“Most of the migrants came from Syria (11,300), Eritrea (9,800) and Somalia (3,200). All of them were effectively forced to leave their countries and they have the right to receive protection under the Italian law,” he notes.

Landings are continuing in January 2014. On 24 January, 204 migrants were rescued by the Italian navy in the Straits of Sicily and landed in Augusta, close to Syracuse.

“The real emergency in the Mediterranean is represented by those migrants who continue to lose their lives at sea. They disappear and their loss simply remains unknown. The identification of the bodies is still a humanitarian issue to be resolved. Numerous relatives of the victims are still waiting to know if their loved ones are among the bodies collected after October's shipwrecks,” says Oropeza.

Over 20,000 people have died in the past twenty years trying to reach the Italian coast. They include 2,300 in 2011 and around 700 in 2013.

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons. The reality of migration needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” said Pope Francis, in his speech for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees celebrated on January 19th by the Holy See.

“We have become too used to seeing these people who are escaping from war, persecution, poverty and hunger as mere statistics. We urgently need to find ways to stop these people from dying at sea when all they are trying to do is to achieve a better life. We need to find ways to make migration safe and to give these people real choices,” says Oropeza.

IOM works in Lampedusa, Sicily, Calabria and Puglia with UNHCR, Save the Children and the Italian Red Cross, as part of the Italian Ministry of the Interior-financed Praesidium project, which aims to help irregular migrants arriving in Italy by sea.