More than 400 people have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and refugee crossings in the first six weeks of 2016 are running at nearly ten times the rate of the same period last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
The IOM reported on Tuesday that the number of arrivals topped 76,000, and the number of deaths shot up to 409 on Mediterranean routes, compared with 69 in the first six weeks of 2015. “The daily average of nearly 2,000 arrivals is nearly ten times the daily average of a year ago,” the IOM said in a statement. “IOM expects Greece to receive its one millionth migrant since the beginning of 2015 by some time next month.”
More than 1.1 million people fleeing poverty, war and repression in the Middle East, Asia and Africa reached Europe’s shores last year, most of them heading for Germany. Around half the arrivals are refugees from the Syrian war, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says. The IOM reported that 70,365 migrants and refugees had arrived by sea in Greece so far this year, and 5,898 in Italy.
Some 319 have died while crossing the eastern Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece and 90 on the central route between North Africa and Italy. IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the organisation did not expect the number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Europe to fall in the foreseeable future.