News / Africa

    Risking Death to Reach Safety in Europe

    Migrants arrive at a detention center in Manduria in southern Italy, March 27, 2011. The center was established to help the many African migrants and refugees who fled North African countries.
    Migrants arrive at a detention center in Manduria in southern Italy, March 27, 2011. The center was established to help the many African migrants and refugees who fled North African countries.
    Joe DeCapua

    The Mediterranean Sea was a deadliest stretch of water in 2011for refugees and migrants. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says more than 1,500 people drowned or went missing while fleeing Africa for Europe.

    UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes says the actual number of deaths may be much higher. She says the figure is just an estimate and many boats may have sunk and gone unreported.

    “By all accounts it was a terrible year. Basically what happened was with the regimes collapsing in Tunisia and Libya this reopened up routes to Europe. But it meant that some of the most vulnerable people in the world were basically taken in by smugglers and put in the most life threatening of situations,” she said.

    The smugglers on the Mediterranean differ in their methods than those on the Gulf of Aden. In the gulf, they often rob, kill or throw Ethiopian and Somali refugees overboard en route to Yemen. Wilkes explains what’s been happening on the Mediterranean.

    “What we heard was that the smugglers were not actually going on the boats themselves. What they were doing was 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,” she said.

    Seeking a new home

    The UNHCR estimated more than 58,000 refugees and migrants from Africa arrived in Europe in 2011.

    Wilkes said, “Of that number, the vast majority, about 56,000, arrived in Italy and the rest arrived in Greece and Malta by Sea. There was quite a high number that came across the land border to Greece, about 55,000 people.”

    So far in 2012, UNHCR says three boats have attempted to make the crossing from Libya, despite high seas and bad weather. One of the boats, carrying 55 people, reported engine problems on January 14 and went missing. Since then, Libyan naval officials say the bodies of 15 Somalis washed ashore last week, including 12 women, two men and a baby girl.

    “Certainly the most recent arrivals it’s been very high numbers of Somalis. According to our own guidelines, all of these people should automatically be considered to be refugees because of the current situation in Somalia. So these are clearly very, very vulnerable people. The majority are women and children trying to make this terrible journey,” said Wilkes.

    Somalis in Libya tell UNHCR they face widespread discrimination. They and other Africans say reaching Europe is a necessity.

    “For refugees from Somalia, from Eritrea, in the vast majority of cases it’s simply not an option for them to go back home. So, this is where they’re pursuing the option of applying for asylum and hoping to find a new home,” she said.

    Those who do arrive in Europe are met by UNHCR and European humanitarian workers. The U.N. agency says it welcomes efforts by Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities to rescue boats in distress. It also calls on captains of ships in the Mediterranean to be on the lookout for boats carrying refugees.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    The Complicated Math of AIDS

    A lot, and then some: the huge - and complicated - cost of the AIDS epidemic

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora