London, Sep 1 (IANS) At least 8,500 people have died or disappeared while attempting to cross the Mediterranean since 2015, latest UN figures revealed on Friday.
According to the figures released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 4,337 people are believed to have drowned since September 2016 while attempting to reach European shores, reports the Guardian.
Most departed from Libya bound for Italy, from Turkey bound for Greece or from Morocco bound for Spain.
A further 4,185 people died in the previous 12 months, from September 1, 2015 until the end of August 2016.
The figures were released to mark the second death anniversary of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was washed ashore in Turkey.
The boy’s death also inspired Khaled Hosseini, the bestselling author of “The Kite Runner”, to write a short story titled “Sea Prayer” about a Syrian father who pleads with the waters to keep his child safe while they are on a boat.
Hosseini, a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, has been an advocate for refugees since 2006, travelling to Afghanistan, Chad, Iraq, Jordan and Uganda.
Photographs of Alan’s body lying face down on the sand near the Turkish resort of Bodrum on September 2, 2015 dominated front pages worldwide
“The way I thought about it, when I saw the photo, was all the unseen work that goes into the raising of a child,” he told the Guardian in an interview.
“All the private worries, the private anxieties… We worry and fret over their wellbeing, and to have done all that work, and see the person that you poured all that love and all that passion and all that work into, and to see that body lying face down on the beach….”
Clampdowns on routes to Europe via Libya and restrictions imposed on the Turkey-Greece route are leading to hundreds risking their lives crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain on inflatable vessels and rickety fishing boats.
The refugee agency urged the international community to take action to prevent further tragedies, saying in a statement that if poor conditions continued in countries such as Syria, people “will continue to gamble their lives making desperate journeys”.