06:19 GMT +322 May 2019
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    The Libyan coastguard pull a boat carrying illegal African migrants, rescued as they were trying to reach Europe, at a naval base near the capital Tripoli on September 29, 2015.

    Lethal Libyan Route: People Smugglers Pick Up From Where EU Policies End

    © AFP 2019 / Mahmud Turkia
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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)
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    While the European Union focuses its efforts and policies stopping war refugees from reaching Greece across the Aegean Sea, people smugglers swap routes in response.

    It's believed hundreds of thousands of people are in Libya or Egypt waiting for a crossing to the Italian island of Lampedusa; 976 migrants who set sail from Libya have drowned so far this year.

    "Unfortunately, as weather conditions are improving, the Libyan shores have come to witness more and more boat tragedies," Mohammed Al Mosrati of the Libyan Red Crescent said.

    "Last month alone, the Red Crescent provided aid and medical care to more than 250 rescued migrants."

    A year ago, charity Red Cross warned that a lack of action by the European Union was contributing to the refugee crisis. Once again, the charity's volunteers are recovering bodies from the sea.

    Since 29 April, over 100 people have died in four different ship wrecks on the Mediterranean Sea according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  

    The Red Cross says 27,000 people have arrived in Europe from Libya so far this year.

    "Sadly, tragedies like this have happened before and many people will continue to face the difficult choice of whether to try and reach Europe by sea.

    "They underline the urgent need for safe and legal routes to Europe for people seeking protection," Karl Pike of the British Red Cross said.

    On April 16, a wooden boat capsized on the high seas, 500 Somalis, Sudanese and Ethiopians on board drowned, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

    The shipwreck became the deadliest accident since the peak of the crisis in April 2015 when 800 men, women and children perished at sea after their boat sank on its way from Libya to Italy. 

    As weather and sea conditions improve, so do the number of arrivals and so do the number of deaths. Libya is becoming once again the lethal route of choice for desperate migrants hoping to reach Europe — despite NGOs, charities and academics relentlessly calling for legal and safe routes for refugees to prevent deaths at sea.

    Italian reception centers are overflowing with new arrivals and while the route to Greece remains restricted and the Western Balkan route remains closed, the burden of Europe's refugee crisis currently resting on Greece is expected to switch to Italy.

    Topic:
    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

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    Tags:
    refugee deaths, rescue operations, migrant crisis, sea, smugglers, refugees, Red Crescent, International Organization of Migration (IOM), Red Cross, Italy, Europe, Libya, Mediterranean Sea
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