IOM says 2,977 have died in Mediterranean in 2016
The International Organization for Migration said Friday that nearly 3,000 refugees have lost their lives in the Mediterranean so far in 2016.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said in a news briefing in Geneva that the death toll stands at an estimated 2,977.
He added that the 3,000 benchmark had been reached earlier than in previous years of the four-year emergency. “This is the earliest, it was Sept 2014 and Oct 2015.”
The IOM official also stated that in the four months since late March, about 20 refugees have been dying each day along the route from Libya to Italy. Those people comprise mainly sub-Saharan Africans, he said.
A related report published on Friday said refugees trying to reach Europe may well be dying in greater numbers before setting their foot off the African continent.
The report by 4mi, an affiliate of the Danish Refugee Council, said it had witnessed testimony suggesting that the sea crossing, where many have also been rescued by European coast guards, may be less risky than the earlier stage of their odyssey through desert, where many may vanish without trace.
“Migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa arriving in Libya, Egypt or Europe consistently indicate that even more people might die while crossing the Sahara Desert than while crossing the Mediterranean, but reliable data on migrant deaths on land routes have so far been unavailable,” the report said.
Reports show the number of refugees arriving in Italy from Libya has risen in 2016, while the overall refugee influx into Europe has decreased dramatically because of the EU border closures and a deal struck between the EU and Turkey under which the flow of Syrians and others from the Turkish territory to Greece has been largely halted.
On Friday, hundreds of refugees rescued by Italy’s coast guard arrived at the Sicilian port of Trapani. The bodies of 22 refugees were also brought to the port by Doctors Without Borders, also known as the MSF, after being found on a rubber dinghy adrift near the Libyan coast earlier in the week.
On July 21, 17 bodies were retrieved by an Irish navy ship when it went to the aid of refugees packed onto a wooden boat off the coast of Libya, marking another deadly day of attempted sea crossings.
With Europe’s refugee crisis in its third year, the Mediterranean Sea route has become the world’s most dangerous border crossing for asylum seekers.
Many blame Europe’s policies vis-à-vis the Middle East and North Africa for the unprecedented refugee influx.