A total of 2,262 migrants died while trying to cross the Mediterranean last year, while 113,482 people arrived in Europe by sea, mainly via Spain, according to the UNHCR, which reported figures down from 2017.
In 2017, the number of arrivals by sea was 172,301 and 3,139 people were estimated as “dead or missing” in their attempt to cross, according to figures updated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on its website. The level of arrivals also dropped from the peak of 1.015 million recorded in 2015.
For 2018, if we add nearly 7,000 registered migrants in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Africa, we obtain a total of 120,205 arrivals in Europe.
Spain returned last year as the first gateway to Europe, with 55,756 arrivals by sea (against 22,103 in 2017). Italy, where the government with very anti-migrant speeches closed ports to humanitarian ships this summer, recorded 23,371 arrivals last year, plummeting from 2017 (119,369), and Greece 32,497.
In 2018, the first country of origin of migrants was Guinea (13,068 people), followed by Morocco (12,745) and Mali (10,347). Syria was only the fourth country of origin of the arrivals, followed by Afghanistan and Iraq.
The reception of migrants rescued at sea caused a European diplomatic crisis last year after the closure of Italian ports, with several humanitarian ships finding themselves wandering in the Mediterranean for want of knowing where to dock. Each situation was unblocked with an emergency agreement between European countries for the distribution of refugees, which had convinced Spain or Malta to let the ships land their passengers.
“In 2019, it is essential to put an end to the current boat-by-boat approach,” UNHCR said Sunday urging states to “implement a regional mechanism that gives ship captains clear and predictable guidance on how to where to land refugees and rescued migrants in the Mediterranean”.
On Wednesday, the Maltese authorities agreed to “house” in their waters two German NGO ships carrying 49 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, due to the deterioration of the conditions on board.
Authorization was given to the seasickness that most of these migrants are suffering from because of the state of the sea, according to this source.
The first of these ships, the Sea-Watch 3, which is flying the flag of the Netherlands, has been sailing since 22 December, waiting to enter a port. It has on board 32 migrants – including three young children, three unaccompanied adolescents and four women – from Nigeria, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.
The Netherlands, however, said on Wednesday it would welcome some of these 32 migrants “provided other European countries do the same,” said Lennart Wegewijs, spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Security and Defense.
While Italy, Malta and Spain have refused to accept Sea-Watch 3 migrants, several German cities have offered to take them over.
On Saturday, a government spokesman explained that Germany would only accept these migrants in case of sharing with other European countries, as has happened since Italy officially closed its ports in June.
A ship from another German NGO, Sea-Eye, also still at sea with 17 people on board waiting to be allowed to dock, was also allowed to take shelter in Maltese waters, according to the report of this small Mediterranean island. He has 16 men on board, including the youngest at 17 and a 24-year-old woman, all from West Africa, rescued on Saturday off the coast of Libya.