Spokesman of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Joel Millman said on Friday that about 3,200 migrants died in the Mediterranean en-route to Europe this year.
“An estimated 3,200 migrants have perished attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2014,” Millman said. “Many of them are victims of ruthless criminal gangs seeking to profit from the misery of men, women and children fleeing conflict and oppression.”
Millman was speaking at a press conference in the UN Headquarters in Geneva. He said that most of the migrants attempting to reach Europe in 2014 were Syrians, Palestinians and Eritreans.
He noted that there was a notable increase in illegal migration to Europe this year, citing the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip as a main factor that pushed many Palestinians to try to come to Europe.
Regarding the migrants who arrived safely in Europe, he said: “Under Italy’s ‘Mare Nostrum’ operation, some 150,000 so-called ‘irregular’ migrants… have arrived safely over the past ten months in Europe, where today many are pursuing claims for asylum.”
It is worth mentioning that the IOM said last month that the number of migrants who lost their lives in the Mediterranean was 3,072, noting that this was the largest amount of migrants to perish in the span of one year since 1988.
Despite a rise in the number of migrants being rescued, IOM does not believe Europe is facing an “invasion” along its southern coast, nor that the safety net provided by Mare Nostrum represented a “pull factor.”
“This is not a crisis of a so-called ‘excess’ of migrants overburdening the continent, but an emergency of more people needing protection, aid and safe migration channels, especially for those not covered by existing protection systems,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.