Dozens of migrants and refugees are feared to have drowned off the coast of Djibouti after two overcrowded boats capsized. Two survivors were recovered but at least 38 people were confirmed dead as they tried to cross the Bab al-Mandab Strait from the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula.
The latest tragedy comes as attention continues to focus on the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting the crossing from North Africa into Europe. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that an average of six people a day lost their lives in 2018 while trying to make the crossing – an estimated 2,275 people. While the 139,300 refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe was the lowest number in five years, the agency reports that many were left stranded at sea for days on end waiting for permission to dock, and that there had been increasing restrictions on NGO search-and-rescue operations
Spain has become the main entry point for people making the crossing into Europe, with 58,600 people successfully making the journey, but with 777 losing their lives in 2018, more than four times the deaths in 2017.
Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said: “Saving lives at sea is not a choice, nor a matter of politics, but an age-old obligation. We can put an end to these tragedies by having the courage and vision to look beyond the next boat, and adopt a long-term approach based on regional cooperation that places human life and dignity at its core.”