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Migrants Continue to Risk Their Lives at Sea

FILE: Migrants receive help from two raft from the Italian Navy ship Libra, off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa Saturday, Oct.12, 2013.
The International Organization for Migration, IOM, reports that over 45,000 migrants risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea, seeking a better life in Italy and Malta in 2013. It was the year with the highest number of arrivalss since 2008, with the exception of the year of 2011 during Libyan crisis, according to the IOM.

The organization ‘s figures show more than 42,900 landed in Italy and 2,800 landed in Malta; over 5,400 were women and 8,300 were minors, mostly unaccompanied. New arrivals are continuing this year, said the IOM’s Rome-based spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo.

“Those are people who are entitled to get some kind of protection because people are fleeing from war, like Syria, and very difficult countries like Somalia, and regimes like Eritrea. These are people who are entitled to get some kind of protection according to Italian law and to international law,” he explained.

The IOM has been working in partnership with the UNHCR, Italian Red Cross, Save the Children and the Italian government to provide humanitarian and legal support to migrants who have successfully made the journey to Lampedusa, Sicily, and other Italian coastal cities.

“The numbers in the end for Italy are not so high because when we talk about 45,000 migrants arriving in Italy, we are talking about more or less than 25% of the irregular migrants arriving each year. Many of the migrants are arriving with visas. When the visas expire, they stay in the camps. The migrants that arrive by sea are just a small part of the total of irregular migrants,” said Di Giacomo.

He said if they are not entitled to protection there are other procedures the Italian government follows to decide whether to send them back to their home countries.

However, Di Giacomo said the real emergency is the death of those attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

“The fact that in 2013 probably around 700 migrants died at sea. So it would be important to find a way to allow migrants to arrive safely,” he emphasized.

Many people looking for a better life by crossing the sea, fall victim to criminals, and end up losing their lives. Di Giacomo points out that protection measures need to be put into place to make the journey process safer.