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More migrants are dying this year in the Mediterranean than ever before

The latest figures from the International Organization for Migration show that 2,977 people have died so far in 2016, with around 20 migrants dying each day since March.

by Kayla Ruble
Jul 22 2016, 1:05pm

Migrants sit in a boat during a rescue operation by Italian navy ship Borsini off the coast of Sicily in July 2016. Photo by Italian Navy via Reuters

Around 20 migrants a day died at sea every day in the Mediterranean since March, and the number of deaths among people heading from Libya to Italy is coming at a higher rate this year.

The latest figures released from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday show that 2,977 people have died so far in 2016 while attempting the crossing from the North African country to Sicily. Looking at numbers from the migrant crisis over the last four years, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told Reuters that deaths did not hit the 3,000 mark until September in 2014 and October in 2015.

On Friday alone, 21 women and one man were found dead aboard a rubber dinghy floating off the coast of Libya, according to international medical charity Doctors Without Borders (also known as Medecins Sans Frontières or MSF). Authorities transported their bodies to the port of Trapani in Sicily.

As calmer weather descended on the Mediterranean in the last several months, the number of boats making their way from Libya has risen, with human smugglers ushering more vessels out to sea.

The boats are often rickety wooden vessels or rubber dinghies. Italian Navy and Coast Guard ships and groups like Migrant Offshore Aid Station often must stage rescue missions for distressed boats, sometimes saving more than 2,000 people in one day.

An estimated 250,000 people have made it ashore in Europe this year. A total of 3,700 people died in the whole of the Mediterranean in 2015, while more than one million migrants landed in Europe during the same period.


Reuters contributed to this report.