Lately, if one happens to watch/listen/read the media, one may be led to believe that an unprecedented wave of refugees and migrants is crossing the Central Mediterranean irregularly.
Well, this is not the case.
The truth is that, despite the de facto closure of the Aegean route since the end of March 2016, to date far more people have arrived in Greece (156,574) than in Italy.
The situation doesn’t change if we compare the arrivals in Italy in the first five months of 2016 with the same period in 2015. Between January and May 2016, Italy received 47810 people. 347 people more than last year when the arrivals in Italy were 47463. Yes, an increase but only marginal (0.8 per cent).
No doubt the situation is dramatic, but why inflating the ‘crisis’? Whose interests or agendas does it serve? Noteworthy, these calls are coming from subjects located across a broad political spectrum: anti-EU politicians proclaiming the failure of EU policy, pro- and anti- migration media outlets, human rights advocates and civic society organisations keen to retain the public support for refugees, but also NGOs worried for a likely steep decline in donations if the crisis doesn’t make headlines.
But it is not just more of the same.
Another figure is alarming. The death rate across the Central Mediterranean has changed, and for the worst. According to IOM, 2061 people are dead or missing at 31st May 2016. This is 16 per cent more than last year when the death toll was 1782. This means that the death rate across the route is now 4.3%, or 1 person dies for every 23 arrivals. Last May the death rate was 3.7%.
What has changed since? Is this due to a change is how search & rescue operations are run? These are the kind of questions we should be asking.