The UN refugee agency on Tuesday renewed its call for stepped up rescue operations in the Mediterranean after the Italian Coastguard saved some 8,500 migrants and refugees trying to cross the high seas by irregular routes to Europe from North Africa.
Dangerous sea journeys are taking the form of ‘Russian Roulette’, Adrian Edwards, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Head of News and Media, said in highlighting that 479 people have already died or have went missing in the first two months of the year in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The wars in Syria and Iraq, as well as armed conflicts, human rights violations and deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in other countries, pushed the number of asylum applications in industrialized countries to a 22-year high last year, according to a UNHCR report released today.
The number of newly registered asylum seekers in Southern Europe went up to 170,700 in 2014 – the highest on record (+95%), according to the 2014 UNHCR Asylum trends.
As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year, the UN refugee agency warned on Thursday that millions of refugees in neighbouring countries and those displaced within the country are caught in deteriorating conditions, facing an even bleaker future without more international support.
The UN refugee agency is shocked at new information emerging on the actual scale of the tragedy in the Mediterranean after Monday’s rescue attempts by the Italian Coast Guard. Reports gathered by UNHCR from the Italian Coast Guard and the survivors in Lampedusa now suggest some 300 people are confirmed missing.