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Bodies found off the Libyan coast highlight a spike in the deaths of migrants and refugees

The International Organization for Migration says deaths already total over 4,000 this year — 26 percent higher than in 2015 and increasingly concentrated in the Mediterranean.

by VICE News and Reuters
Aug 2 2016, 4:19pm

Photo by Handout/Reuters

About 120 bodies believed to belong to people desperately trying to reach Italy have been found off the Libyan coast over the last week or 10 days.

The discovery of the bodies near the city of Sabratha in northern Libya highlights the rising numbers of migrants and refugees dying on their journey, and the concentration of the trend in the Mediterranean.

"The tragedy occurred very close to shore," Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, told reporters on Tuesday. " [The bodies] are not from previously reported shipwrecks in the Mediterranean."

The IOM also released a statement saying that the Italian coast guard rescued nearly 8,000 African migrants between Friday and Monday. They were travelling in unseaworthy boats trying to cross the central Mediterranean in rough conditions.

The IOM statement highlighted that the number of deaths has now topped 4,000 so far this year — 4,027 — which represents a 26 percent increase on the number who died in the first seven months of 2015. It said three quarters of this year's deaths have taken place in the Mediterranean, compared to 60 percent last year.

The longer and more dangerous route through the central Mediterranean has become more important since a deal between the European Union and Turkey in March largely blocked access to Greece.

Watch: Drowning for Freedom: Libya's Migrant Jails (Part 1)

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