International Migrants Day overshadowed by Mediterranean shipwrecks

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Syrian survivor Mohammad, 18, was rescued with other refugees and migrants at open sea off Greece after their boat capsized in June. But thousands of migrants haven’t been as lucky./Reuters/Stelios Misinas.

Syrian survivor Mohammad, 18, was rescued with other refugees and migrants at open sea off Greece after their boat capsized in June. But thousands of migrants haven’t been as lucky./Reuters/Stelios Misinas.

International Migrants Day recognizes people who have left their homes in search of a better life after fleeing conflict, discrimination or poverty. ‌But this year’s celebration, on December 18, has been overshadowed by a series of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean, that have claimed thousands of lives. 

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration estimates that over 2,200 people have drowned while attempting the crossing in 2023. ‌In June, at least 80 migrants drowned and 104 were rescued after their overloaded boat capsized and sank off the coast of Greece. Reports suggested that close to 700 people were on board. 

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‌A similar tragedy also took place just two days ago off the coast of Libya, where at least 61 people are thought to have drowned. Thousands of people also make the journey on foot and face many dangers along the way. 

‌The head of Greece’s Refugee Council suggests the number of migrant deaths would fall if Europe adopted better legal migration policies. He says better integration policies are also needed. 

“Greece is lucky because it’s a little bit behind other countries and we can see what works and can choose which options would be better and more effective for Greece to integrate migrants with our way of life.”

Head of Hellenic Refugee Council, Lefteris Papagianakis told CGTN. “Many other countries have done it and it seems to be working, but we haven’t done this at all, We haven’t put a plan together, we haven’t even discussed it,” he added. 

‌However, Greek authorities want to see more action on an EU-wide level to deal with the issue of migrants arriving illegally on the shores of Europe. 
‌ 
“We have received funds to combat this issue, but we need more solidarity,” Greek Vice Minister of Migration, Sofia Voultepsi told CGTN. “To exist, there must be a common European framework for asylum, returns, and integration. As long as this does not exist, we are doing what we have to do to carry out our humanitarian duty and protect our country,” she added. 

‌So far this year, hundreds of thousands of people have attempted to cross into Europe via land and sea, hoping to start a new life. Some, like Narsudin, have been successful. He considers himself fortunate, but thousands of others are unlucky. Their dreams of a fresh start in a safe country are lost along a dangerous journey.

International Migrants Day overshadowed by Mediterranean shipwrecks

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