UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said Tuesday this year is proving to be “particularly deadly” on the Mediterranean, with some 2.510 lives lost compared with 1.855 in the same span a year ago.
Authorities and international organizations had previously reported some 700 migrants and refugees had perished in Mediterranean shipwrecks over three days last week, the deadliest known tally in over a year.
Spindler reiterated UNHCR’s appeal to the European Union to allow for more legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe, and said it was “shameful” that the bloc had resettled fewer than 2.000 people under a plan announced last year to resettle 160.000.
Meanwhile, since the Balkan routes have been closed, populist movements in Italy have sought to capitalize on the issue of migration, insisting the number of arrivals is rising quickly and accusing Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of inaction.
Renzi hit back at his critics on Monday. “We save as many lives as possible, knowing that there is no invasion” Renzi said in a weekly emailed newsletter. “The numbers are still the same, more or less”, he said, adding there is no such thing as an “invasion”, which his critics have been arguing.
Renzi said he was hopeful that “finally something is moving” and that the European Union may agree to his Migration Compact package of proposals including investments in the migrants' countries of origin. In the past, Italy has accused the EU of neglecting its struggle with migration.
About 46.100 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy so far this year, with almost a third of them arriving last week alone, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The total up to Sunday was equivalent to the same period in 2015, with about 14.000 arriving last week, agency spokesman Carlotta Sami said in a telephone interview.