Sub-Saharan migrants cover themselves with a heating blanket on the deck of the Golfo Azzurro after been rescued from the Mediterranean sea, about 24 miles north of Sabratha, Libya. Rescuers pulled nearly 300 people from two rubber boats in waters off the coast and were looking for 100 more believed to be on another boat missing since Sunday.
Almost as many Europe-bound asylum seekers and irregular migrants have died on desperate journeys so far this year than in all of 2015, the deadliest year on record for refugees. At least 3,034 refugees perished on the Mediterranean Sea between January 1 and July 28 of 2016, compared with 1,970 in almost the same period a year earlier – an increase of 54 percent, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
In all of 2015, at least 3,771 refugees lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean. Many believe that given the alarming figures, 2016 will set a new record for refugee deaths, as calls by human rights organisations to provide safer passages go largely ignored. “We are well on track to exceeding the total number of known deaths that occurred in 2015,” Niels Frenzen, director of the Immigration Clinic at USC Gould School of Law, told Al Jazeera. “I don’t expect the crisis, which is many different crises, to be resolved any time soon … Harsher policies that focus more on border control and less on humanitarian protection are likely.”