UN laments 'rising' refugee deaths in Mediterranean Sea

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

UN Refugee Agency estimates over 170 people died at sea trying to reach Europe in 2014, losing their lives in waters off Greece, Libya and Italy as well as in international waters

UN Refugee Agency estimates over 170 people died at sea trying to reach Europe in 2014, losing their lives in waters off Greece, Libya and Italy as well as in international waters

GENEVA - The United Nations Refugee Agency expressed 'deep sadness' Tuesday at the rising death toll from boat accidents in the Mediterranean Sea, as increasing numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees attempt to travel on unseaworthy boats, often at the hands of smugglers.

The agency estimates that over 170 people have died at sea in 2014 trying to reach Europe, losing their lives in the waters off Greece, Libya and Italy, as well as in international waters.

"We urge governments around the world to provide legal alternatives to dangerous sea journeys, ensuring desperate people in need of refuge can seek and find protection and asylum," the agency’s spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in a press conference on Tuesday in the UN Office in Geneva. 

"These alternatives could include resettlement, humanitarian admission, and facilitated access to family reunification. Governments are also asked to resist punitive or deterrent measures such as detention for people seeking safety," he added.

On Monday, at least 17 people drowned after a boat sank in international waters, some 160 km south of Lampedusa, Italy, and around 80 km north-west of Tripoli, Libya. Those dead include 12 women, three children and two men, the UN Refugee Agency said.

The event comes after three separate boat accidents in the Libyan coast over the past two weeks, which killed 121 people, mostly from the African continent, while the Libyan coast guard has rescued 134 people.

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