The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has released its latest report on the flow of refugees to Europe over the Mediterranean, saying a deal between the European Union and Libya in July has caused a significant drop in the number of arrivals in Italy.
“Over the past three months, 21,666 refugees and migrants have crossed the sea to Italy, the lowest number for this period over the last four years,” the UNHCR said in its report released on Thursday.
The EU-Libya agreement has triggered massive concerns among rights campaigners as they say Libyan authorities have repeatedly violated the rights of refugees who were detained while trying to cross the Mediterranean. The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, condemned the “inhuman” treatment of refugees in Libya in a statement earlier this month.
The UNHCR said the deal had managed to reach its objectives of containing the increasing flow from Libya to Italy, adding that the agreement was originally meant to “to reduce irregular crossings to Italy.”
The UN agency, however, said that arrivals in Europe from other major routes in the eastern Mediterranean had increased in the recent past.
“In September, 4,900 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Greece, the highest in a single month since March 2016,” when the EU reached a similar agreement with Turkey to cut refugee traffic to Greece.
Meanwhile, UNHCR’s Europe chief Pascale Moreau regretted the fact that despite increased restrictions, many still dared risk their lives across the Mediterranean.
“Thousands continue to attempt desperate and dangerous journeys to Europe,” Moreau said, adding that around 3,000 people are estimated to have died or gone missing at sea since November 20.