A staggering 3,771 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean in 2015.*
Yet for those who do make it to Europe’s shores, the crossing is just the final part of a journey that has put them at risk of death numerous times.
A new British Red Cross report, released ahead of two international summits on migration, shows that nearly all of those arriving in Italy have been detained for a period in Libya. Most have witnessed beatings, torture, rape or forced labour.
Most people have also crossed the Sahara desert, through lawless territory controlled by armed groups. Survivors report people being starved or dehydrated, beaten, abandoned, trafficked into forced labour or sex work, or held for ransom.
What we are calling for
Irrespective of why people undertake their journeys, everyone has the right to be protected from this sort of exploitation, abuse and violence.
Yet instead of making efforts to keep people safe, international responses to the refugee crisis have largely focused on reducing people’s ability to travel. This has included erecting fences, increasing security at borders, cracking down on smugglers and increasing co-operation between countries to detect and prevent movement.
The Red Cross is calling on governments to ensure that vulnerable migrants, irrespective of legal status, are provided with better assistance and protection during their journeys. This includes a commitment to funding search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
We are also calling for governments to allow people to escape countries or situations where their lives or safety are at risk. This includes respecting the principle of non-refoulement by refraining from sending people back to countries where their lives and safety are at risk.
Download the report to read the full list of calls we are making to governments.
The Red Cross: helping the people in search of safety
The British Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which neither encourages nor discourages people to move. We simply aim to provide neutral, independent, impartial assistance to those who need it most.
Working with and for vulnerable migrants is a long-standing role of the Movement. Spanning 190 countries, the Movement is well-placed to help prevent migrants from falling into poverty, isolation and danger in the course of their journeys.
Through services such as Restoring Family Links, we help reunite people with their families when they have become separated. We also help inform families when deaths occur.
National Societies such as the Libyan Red Crescent and the Italian Red Cross have also played a crucial, but heart-breaking role in collecting the bodies of those who have died at sea and providing dignity at the end of life.
*IOM year-end summary.