GENEVA - A dramatic upsurge has taken place in the number of migrant deaths, mainly from West Africa, on the perilous Mediterranean sea crossing between Libya and the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The International Organization for Migration reports at least 365 people have disappeared and are presumed dead after at least six incidents in the Mediterranean in the past three days. It says that brings the number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean this year to a record 4,636.
IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle calls this a calamity in plain sight.
“In November, we have 365 deaths that we have counted. So, this is six times higher than the deaths last year in that month ," said Doyle. " Overall, we are counting 1,000 more migrant deaths in the Mediterranean compared to the same period last year. So, over the stretch of the year from January to November, 1000 extra deaths and six times more in November alone.”
Doyle says deaths on the Mediterranean are surging because the migrants are making the dangerous sea crossing in poor weather and rough conditions. Survivors say smugglers are forcing migrants to get on board unsafe rubber dinghies, which take on water and gradually sink.
“Migrants assuming and paying in the hope and expectation that they will get a decent passage across the Mediterranean, coming down to the beach and being confronted with a rubber raft and not having any options sometimes, physical restraints and then even going back," said Doyle. "So, the situation is clearly alarming.”
Doyle says there are few happy endings for migrants who survive the arduous journey and arrive safely in Italy. He tells VOA their expectations of having a good life in Europe and sending money home to their families is rarely realized.
He says most of the requests for asylum from migrants who come from Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and elsewhere in West Africa are rejected. Doyle says they are regarded as economic migrants and are either deported or forced to live underground in the European Union.