Friday 4 July 2014

More refugees than ever

This week 45 African men suffocated in the hold of a ship as they tried to get themselves smuggled into Italy. It is said they had begged to be released but that they were kept below in case the vessel capsized. Another 70 boat people were lost in the Mediterranean in a separate incident.

Over last weekend, patrol boats picked up 5,000 migrants, following a reversal in Italian policy. Until 2011, the country had tried to block them, sending those it caught back to Africa, but after 360 drowned off Lampedusa last year, it has started search-and-rescue missions.

Since then, the number of arrivals has ballooned to 65,000, compared with 8,000 in the first half of last year, while Greece has seen the number of illegal migrants more than double. Earlier this week, Italian police arrested five Eritreans they said were running a people-smuggling operation.

Across the world, 2013 saw 6 million people driven from their homes by violence and conflict, taking the global total for refugees to more than 50 million. The war in Syria has displaced 9 million people – nearly half the population.

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