Wednesday 24 May 2017

Action demanded as desperate refugees face a bleak 2017

Europe needs to wake up to the rising death toll from the migrant crisis and live up to its promises to help

An internally displaced Syrian boy walks through mud in the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border, northern Aleppo province, Syria December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
An internally displaced Syrian boy walks through mud in the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border, northern Aleppo province, Syria December 26, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Jim Clarken

In her work titled Home the Somali writer and poet Warsan Shire wrote: "You have to understand that no one puts their child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land."

Because of the closure by the EU of alternative pathways for people fleeing conflict and poverty, the number of refugees and migrants using the Mediterranean route increased in 2016, as did the death toll. Over the past year and a half, almost 1.3m people seeking a new beginning have travelled to Europe. In the deadly central Mediterranean crossing to Italy, more than 3,740 people died in 2016, making it the deadliest year to date.

In Oxfam's Dublin office we have a number of lifejackets worn by people who crossed the Mediterranean in 2016 - not all of whom made it to Europe alive. Many were never seaworthy, filled with straw and sponge. There was no hope of surviving if the boat capsized. These lifejackets symbolise the human tragedy unfolding behind the statistics.

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