Migrant Death Toll Rising Over 2016 High

A mother and her baby rescued after crossing the Mediterranean ?UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

By MarEx 2017-01-17 19:47:37

A weekend shipwreck saw nearly 180 people lost on a boat that capsized off the coast of Libya. The Italian coastguard said the boat had not been found, so there is no way to determine the exact number of passengers on board.

Search operations in very poor weather conditions resulted in rescuers recovering few survivors as well as the remains of eight migrants. The search for survivors continued through the weekend and involved several ships, including Italian Navy vessels.

On Monday some 1,100 migrants were brought to land by rescue ships patrolling the Mediterranean. Many survivors told International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff that they had attempted the dangerous sea crossing to flee violence and human rights abuses in Libya. They claimed to have no option but to put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers, who often forced them onto boats, despite the rough sea conditions.

At least 219 migrants and refugees are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean already this year, more than double than during the same period a year ago, IOM said.

From January 1 to 15, 2,876 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy, compared to 23,664 through the first 14 days of January 2016, according to the IOM figures.

With over 5,000 people killed or missing, the U.N. reports that 2016 was the deadliest year ever for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. However, E.U. border force Frontex estimates that the number of people landing on Europe's shores fell by two-thirds in 2016. A drop in arrivals on Greece’s islands contrasts however with record numbers of migrants reaching Italy.