(Next Media Online) – At least 300 migrants are feared dead in Mediterranean waters after they tried to reach Europe from Africa, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Survivors reported that four inflatable dinghies set out from Libya on Saturday to make the journey to to Europe, the UNHCR said, adding that at least 29 people died from hypothermia Sunday in one of the boats.
In 2013, as many as 60,000 refugees fled conflicts in Africa, Syria and Iraq to reach European shores. The figure nearly tripled in 2014 to 175,000 refugees, according to the UNHCR. About 3,500 of the migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean last year died in rough seas. The agency says that if this trend continues, 2015 could see an even higher increase in the number of migrants making their way onto European shores. In January of this year alone, 3,528 migrants reached Italy, up by two-thirds from 2,171 in the first month of 2014, UNHCR reported.
Most migrants travel through Italy due to its close proximity to Lampedusa — the small Italian island off the coast. However, as many migrants end up traveling through Italy on to France, Germany and the United Kingdom, Italy is branding the issue as a European problem, and is seeking help in paying for the cost of rescuing and processing refugees.
USA Today, Financial Times, Euronews