The Latest: UN: Migrant death rate rising in sea crossings


ROME (AP) — The Latest on migration in Europe (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

The Czech Republic’s prime minister has pledged his country’s full support for Fayez Serraj, the prime minister of the U.N.-backed Libyan government in the capital, Tripoli.

Andrej Babis said Wednesday the Czech Republic has paid 8.75 million euros ($10 million), its share of the 35 million euros ($40 million) it pledged together with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to help stop illegal migration from Libya.

Serraj said he also discussed with his Czech counterpart the possible cooperation of security and spy services. He said Libya needs technology and arms to be able to better guard its borders, and also needs help to improve the situation in the official refugee centers.

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There are some 20,000 people in those centers, a tiny fraction of the 800,000 migrants who are currently in Libya, Serraj said after meeting Babis.

Libya has emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe. It is split between rival governments in the east and west, each one backed by militias, tribes and political factions.


1:15 p.m.

The U.N.’s top refugee official says six people died on average every day trying to cross the Mediterranean last year and that the death rate in perilous sea crossings is rising.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that the figure “should make all Europeans reflect very deeply.”

Grandi said the fact that “this continent with all its power, money, technology, means, allows people to die in the Mediterranean at the rate of six per day is quite dramatic.”

A new report from the U.N. refugee agency says that while the number of people crossing the sea in search of sanctuary and better lives in Europe dropped, the death rate doubled over a year.

Migrants are increasingly trying to enter Europe via Spain and the report says the death toll in that area almost quadrupled from 202 in 2017 to 777 last year.

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12:45 p.m.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says 47 migrants kept at sea for over a week as Europe squabbled over their fate will disembark “in the coming hours” after a half-dozen countries came forward to take them in.

Conte said Wednesday that Luxembourg had joined Germany, France, Portugal, Romania and Malta in agreeing to take some migrants from the Sea-Watch 3 ship operated by a German aid group.

The migrants were rescued Jan. 19 off the coast of Libya and have been off Sicily since Friday, drawing the ire of the U.N. and sparking an emergency appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Italy’s populist government has refused to allow humanitarian ships to dock in a bid to dissuade them from conducting rescues and to force other countries to share the burden.

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