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Charity predicts 2017 will see more deaths

THE CHARITY Human Appeal has predicted that 2017 will be another year of death in the Middle East and Mediterranean. The gloomy assessment came after the bodies of 28 refugees were discovered off the coast of Libya in mid-April. Four innocent children were among the dead. The victims appeared to have perished from hunger and thirst after their boat’s engine failed, and they were left drifting in the Mediterranean Sea.

Human Appeal reports that refugees from Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Eritrea are still risking everything to cross the Mediterranean and seek safety in Europe. They are fleeing war and persecution, and millions have seen their homes destroyed and their family members killed. Too many refugees are forced to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers, who often charge extortionate prices for taking passengers across the sea.

The charity points out that the 28 dead refugees were recovered in the waters around Sabratha, a major hub for people-smuggling. According to NGO reports, smugglers are increasingly turning to transporting refugees in unsafe vessels that cannot make the crossing to Europe. If refugees argue that the boat they’re being ferried in isn’t seaworthy, violence can break out – with the dissenting parties killed and the rest of the group forced on to the ship anyway. Life jackets are a rarity, and there have been several cases of refugees suffocating to death after being crammed onto tiny boats.

This is just the latest disaster to befall vulnerable refugees attempting to make the perilous journey to Europe. In February 2017, the bodies of more than 70 refugees washed up in Zawiyah after drifting to shore in a flimsy dinghy. As long as conflict and unrest continue to devastate countries like Syria and Iraq, many more will attempt the perilous crossing from Libya and more lives will be lost.

What can we expect for 2017? Human Appeal says that over 5,000 people fleeing violence drowned, suffocated or died of hypothermia at sea in 2016. The majority of these deaths occurred on the Central Mediterranean route from Libya. The UN has already reported almost 1,000 deaths in 2017, and last year’s figures are sadly predicted to be surpassed.

Human Appeal takes the view that the only way to stop refugees dying on the Mediterranean is to alleviate the terrible suffering in their home countries. The charity is committed to providing lifesaving aid to conflict-affected families in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and many other countries. In 2016, it distributed flour and bread to 50,000 people every day and fed 25,100 displaced people with cooked meals in Aleppo, Syria. Human Appeal is currently on the ground in Yemen, providing 468 families facing starvation with food parcels, and outside the city of Mosul in Iraq, feeding 7,500 people who have fled the ongoing violence.

Human Appeal is now appealing to the public to help this amazing work to continue. Just £100 can provide a vulnerable family with food, clean water and basic medical care. This can mean the difference between life and death for a people who have lost everything. Now, says Human Appeal, is the time to give.

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