More than 80 refugees have died so far this year in their attempts to reach Europe from Libya, according to figures released by the United Nations (UN) on Tuesday. The numbers are down from last year when a protest wave engulfed the region.
The latest incident occurred last week when a group of 90 Somali refugees sailed from Libya to Malta's Riviera Bay. When they arrived on Saturday, the exhausted Somali refugees told authorities that five men and two women died during the dangerous voyage which often results in fatalities.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards noted that this is the fourth such boat to have arrived in Malta this year, bringing the number of refugees who arrived there to 210. In addition, another 45 boats carrying hundreds of people have also reached Italy.
According to the agency's regional office in Italy, the latest deaths bring the number of reported or confirmed fatalities among people attempting to reach Europe from Libya in North Africa to 81 so far this year, an average of two people every three days. But many deaths go unreported as human smugglers often throw victims overboard.
Edwards noted that, compared to last year, which saw tens of thousands of people traveling from Tunisia and Libya, the number of arrivals in Malta and Italy from North Africa is down, with around 2,200 people having arrived in 2012, most in Italy. Last year an estimated 1,500 people were reported missing or dead following their desperate attempt to reach Europe.
Edwards also reiterated that the UNHCR continues its call to ship masters in the Mediterranean for heightened vigilance and continued adherence to the longstanding maritime obligation of aiding those in distress.