A woman hugs a baby wrapped in an emergency blanket as refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. (AFP)
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KOBANE – At least 4,176 refugees have died or gone missing since the death of the Syrian Kurdish toddler Alan Kurdi one year ago, the UNCHR spokesman William Spindler said on Friday.
“A year ago today, the world was moved by the photograph of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi who drowned when his family, like hundreds of thousands of other refugees, was desperately trying to reach safety in Europe,” Spindler said about Kurdi, who drowned on 2 September, 2015, after escaping Kobane city with his family.
“UNHCR estimates that, since Alan’s death 4,176 people have died or gone missing on the Mediterranean – an average of 11 men, women and children perishing every single day over the last 12 months,” he added.
During the first eight months of 2016, some 281,740 people have made the treacherous sea crossing to Europe, UNCHR statistics show.
The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece has dropped dramatically from over 67,000 in January to 3,437 in August, following the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and the closure of the so-called Balkan route.
The number of arrivals to Italy, meanwhile, has remained more or less constant, with some 115,000 refugees and migrants landing in Italy as of the end of August, compared to 116,000 during the same period last year, according to the UNCHR.
“These numbers highlight the urgent need for States to increase pathways for admission of refugees, such as resettlement, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes, among others, so they do not have to resort to dangerous journeys and the use of smugglers,” the UNCHR spokesperson said.
“The death of Alan Kurdi resulted in unprecedented expressions of sympathy and solidarity for refugees all over Europe, with many people volunteering to help and spontaneously giving food, water and clothes to refugees and even offering to take them into their homes,” he added.
“In this effort, UNHCR strongly urges governments and their national partners to commit to the development and implementation of comprehensive national integration plans,” Spindler stated.
“The numerous contributions refugees bring to their new societies need to be recognized. UNHCR also calls for a clear commitment to the prevention of discrimination, the promotion of inclusion and the combatting of racism and xenophobia,” he concluded.