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article imageRecord number of 1500 migrant deaths in Mediterranean 2011

By Katerina Nikolas     Feb 2, 2012 in World
The Mediterranean attracts millions of holidaymakers each summer, but for migrants attempting illegal crossings into Europe it can prove deadly.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has released figures showing that at least 1,500 migrants drowned or went missing whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe during 2011. The figures cited are just an estimate based on collected data and actual figures could be much higher as boats which sank may have gone unreported.
The figures released are the highest since such statistics were first recorded. According to the Tripoli Post the number of deaths was estimated by speaking to survivors of boats that sank and interviews with people who reached Europe or relatives of those missing.
The situation in Tunisia and Libya resulted in routes to Europe reopening. Prior to the uprising in Libya Colonel Gaddafi kept strict control ensuring Libya was not used as an exit route to Europe via the Mediterranean. As people fled Tunisia and Libya many were exploited by smugglers.
VOA News reported UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes said smugglers were "gathering groups of refugees and migrants that wanted to travel and then they were obliging them to skipper the boats themselves. So, we saw in a number of situations these boats getting terribly lost, running out of water. In some cases, even the passengers turning on each other and in addition in unseaworthy vessels."
According to WSWS many of the deaths were preventable due to the high presence of NATO ships in the Mediterranean. It claims "NATO has not merely “overlooked” the refugees. It has also refused to provide shipwrecked refugees assistance when alerted." They report Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini accused NATO of failing to help a boat-full of migrants during August after it had been alerted. The boat drifted for a week before being rescued by Italian coast guards, by which time 100 or the 300 refugees on board had perished due to dehydration, thirst and exhaustion.
Italy, Greece and Malta were the favored entry points for migrants fleeing Africa during 2011 with recorded arrivals of 58,000 crossing the Mediterranean. Early figures for 2012 show that the largest number of illegal migrants entering Europe are Somalis.
More about Mediterranean drownings, migrants Europe, Unhcr
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