Danish merchant ships rescuing fewer refugees in the Mediterranean

Lucie Rychla
December 28th, 2016

This article is more than 7 years old.

EU countries have agreed to strengthen coastguard co-operation in the region

Danish commercial vessels, such as Maersk Line containerships, have played an important role in rescue operations in the Mediterranean in recent years, but their assistance has become less needed this year.

New figures from the Danish Shipowners Association have revealed that while in 2014 and 2015, Danish merchant ships rescued 3,253 and 2,660 people respectively, this year they only participated in four separate operations and saved 525 people from drowning on the sea.

One of the latest incidents took place on October 27, when a Danish commercial ship rescued 339 refugees on the sea, while another 52 either died or went missing.

READ MORE: Maersk boss: Mediterranean refugee situation is a tragedy without equal

More EU patrols
The EU countries this summer decided to strengthen coastguard co-operation and increase patrols in the Mediterranean, which has reduced the need for commercial vessels to take part in rescue operations, explained  Anne H Steffensen, the head of the Danish Shipowners Association.

“When Danish merchant ships encounter people in need they always help of course,” Steffensen told Metroxpress.

“But it is not a task for commercial vessels. It is a task for the authorities who have special ships and trained personnel.”

Although fewer people have sought to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year, the death toll has increased dramatically.

READ MORE: Danish tanker saves 222 refugees in Mediterranean

Thousands die on the sea
The UNHCR has registered 359,585 people who have made the crossing this year compared to over a million last year.

Some 5,011 have been reported dead or missing this year.

“This is the worst we have ever seen,” stated William Spindler, the spokesperson for UNHCR at a press briefing in Geneva on October 25.

“From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiralled to one in 88.”


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