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Death Toll among Refugees crossing Mediterranean is Highest Ever, says UN report

These dangers reinforce the urgent need to increase legal pathways for refugees to seek asylum in European countries, says Spindler

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A migrant prays on the Migrant Offshore Aid Station ship Topaz Responder after being rescued around 20 nautical miles off the coast of Libya, June 23, 2016. Image source: VOA

early 4,200 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea since Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed ashore on a Turkish beach one year ago, said the U.N. refugee agency report. During the first eight months of this year, the agency reports, more than 280,000 people have made the treacherous sea crossing to Europe.

The number of arrivals in Greece has practically dried up, following the implementation of a European Union-Turkey accord under which migrants are prevented from leaving Turkish shores. But the numbers leaving Libya for Italy remain high.

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UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said Friday that the change in the migratory pattern had caused a spike in the number of casualties.

Representational Image of Refugees. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Representational Image of Refugees.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“So far this year, one person has died for every 42 crossings from North Africa to Italy, compared to one in every 52 last year,” he said. “This makes 2016 to date the deadliest year on record in the central Mediterranean. The chances of dying on the Libya-to-Italy route are 10 times higher than when crossing from Turkey to Greece.”

Legal pathways

Spindler said these dangers reinforce the urgent need to increase legal pathways for refugees to seek asylum in European countries. These, he said, could involve resettlement or private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Children’s Fund estimated that 500,000 refugee and migrant children had fallen prey to smugglers. The agency said people smuggling and human trafficking were now estimated to be worth up to $6 billion annually.

Migrants stand in a line in front of Red Cross member after disembarking from the Italian navy ship Borsini in the Sicilian harbor of Palermo, southern Italy, July 20, 2016. Image source: VOA
Migrants stand in a line in front of Red Cross member after disembarking from the Italian navy ship Borsini in the Sicilian harbor of Palermo, southern Italy, July 20, 2016. Image source: VOA

UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe told VOA that children, especially unaccompanied youngsters, who use smugglers to reach European countries of destination were very vulnerable to exploitation.

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“It may mean that they have to pay off their debts in favours, in exploitative services, such as labour, sexual prostitution, sexual exploitation and so on,” she said. “But sometimes, just out of desperation, they will fall into the hands of other criminals, organised crime, et cetera.”

To help protect refugee and migrant children, UNICEF is calling for greater efforts in tracking and documenting smuggling and trafficking networks that target children on the move. (VOA)

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Vietnam Offering Support to Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Sustained aid from nations is necessary to continue WFP operations in Bangladesh, the UN agency warned

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Rohingya
Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wade past a waterlogged path leading to the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. VOA

United Nations World Food Programme in Bangladesh said it welcomed a new contribution of $50,000 from Vietnam to support operations in Coxs Bazar – home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar.

“We are very grateful to Vietnam for stepping up to assist people living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps,” said Richard Ragan, WFP Representative and Country Director, in a statement.

“This remains a serious humanitarian emergency, and continued support from the international community is vital if we are to keep providing the humanitarian assistance that is so badly needed.”

Vietnam’s new aid was announced by the Special Envoy of Prime Minister, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nguyen Quoc Dzung, during a visit to Bangladesh, according to WPF.

“Although this is a modest contribution, we are hopeful that our support will advance the response to this crisis situation,” he said.

Rohingya, india
Rohingya women and children are seen at a temporary shelter in the Kalindi Kunj area of New Delhi, India, April 15, 2018. VOA

Vietnam joins dozens of other states who have pledged their support to the Cox’s Bazar response since the August 2017 refugee influx, said WFP, which provides food assistance to more than 870,000 refugees per month at the sprawling refugee settlement.

The UN agency also provides nutritional and livelihood support to the host community at Cox’s Bazaar, with the aim of helping the most vulnerable, WFP said.

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Sustained aid from nations is necessary to continue WFP operations in Bangladesh, the UN agency warned.

Over 750,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Cox’s Bazar since August 2017 to escape persecution and violence by Myanmar’s military in Northern Rakhine State. Thousands of other Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh during previous periods of repression in Myanmar. (IANS)