• According to a newly released report by the UNHCR, a record number of Africans die Trying to Reach Europe on Boat!

No less than 1,500 migrants, mainly from Somalia and other parts of Africa, lost their lives while trying to enter the European coastlines in 2011. According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), the deadly journey continues from Libya.

It said popular uprisings in Tunisia and Libya encouraged many people to run away from their country last year, sub-Saharan migrants working in North Africa after tighter border methods sharply reduced arrivals in Europe in 2009 and 2010.

“This makes 2011 the deadliest year for this region since UNHCR started to record these statistics in 2006,” Sybella Wilkes, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing.

The UNHCR toll is an evaluation that involves people of15 nationalities recognised to have drowned or disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea, which divides Europe and Africa.

Over 58,000 people entered Europe by sea last year, also a record, comprising 56,000 who arrived in Italy, half of them Tunisian, Ms Wilkes said.

Malta and Greece received 1,574 and 1,030 people, respectively, by sea. “Most were migrants, not asylum-seekers,” she said.

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Furthermore, 55,000 “irregular” migrants crossed the land border between Greece and Turkey at Evros last year, according to Greek government figures.

Last April and May, armed forces loyal to then-Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy forced migrants onto boats which they often had to skipper themselves in traumatic conditions, said Ms Wilkes.

Notwithstanding high seas and poor mid-winter weather, three boats are acknowledged to have made an effort to take the perilous journey from Libya already this year, one of which disappeared at sea with at least 55 people on board after raising the alarm, Ms Wilkes said.

Libyan coast guards have told the UNHCR that 18 bodies have washed up in the past week, as well as a dozen women and a baby girl, mainly those people from Somali who are living in Tripoli, she said.

Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities were making efforts to rescue boats in distress in the Mediterranean. But the UNHCR repeated its call for all ships to carry out their duty of rescuing vessels in distress, in line with international law.

  • Ireland.com

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