A record number of migrants (137,000) crossed the Mediterranean in perilous conditions in the first half of 2015, mostly fleeing conflicts. This represents an 83% hike compared to the first half of 2014, revealed the United Nations on Wednesday. The situation is expected to worsen over the summer, when illegal smugglers are more active: in 2014 the number of migrants in the Mediterranean went from 75,000 in the first 2 quarters to 219,000 at the end of the year, according to the High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
One third of the men, women and children who got to Greece or Italy by sea were from Syria, a war-torn country since 2011. People fleeing persistent violence in Afghanistan and the repressive regime in Eritrea make up 12% of newcomers, according to the UNHCR report. Most other migrants come from Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq, and the Sudan.
During the first half of 2015, 1,867 people died trying to get across the Mediterranean, a staggering 1,308 of which died during the month of April alone.
April’s disasters and shipwrecks forced EU leaders to intensify search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, bringing the number of victims down to 68 in May and 12 in June.