UN Agency: 35% Increase in Migrant Drownings in 2016


The U.N. Refugee Agency has said that more than 2,510 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean while attempting to cross into Europe so far this year, compared to 1,855 in the first five months in 2015. In the past week, there were 880 drownings. Announcing the death toll in Geneva, U.N. Agency Spokesman William Spindler said that 2016 is proving to be “particularly deadly.”

While thousands died in 2015 and 2016, there were less than 60 deaths in the same period in 2014.

Spindler said that the route from Libya or other north African countries to Italy, known as the central Mediterranean route, was “dramatically more dangerous” than the route from the Turkish coast to Greece that is taken by most migrants. One reason for this is that these boats are more crowded. The odds of dying on the central Mediterranean route are one in 23. The odds of dying in the Mediterranean as a whole, while attempting to illegally enter Europe by sea, were one in 81.

Less than a quarter of migrants making the sea journey choose the central Mediterranean route (46,714 people), compared with the 156,364 people entering Greece by sea.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) notes that there has been a shift in migration patterns across the EU with a spike in the numbers of migrants entering Europe via Italy in the two weeks ending May 18 was up 54 percent compared with the previous two weeks. In Greece, the entry attempts had dropped 67 percent over the same period. This was attributed to the EU-Turkey agreement.