Mediterranean migrant death toll hits new high

More than 3,000 migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, more than double the previous peak in 2011, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said on Monday.

Europe is by far the most dangerous destination for "irregular" migrants, the organization found in a report, with 3,072, or 75 percent, of the 4,077 registered migrant deaths worldwide since January happening in the Mediterranean.
In the 216-page report titled "Fatal Journeys: migrant fatalities across land and sea", IOM said more than 40,000 people had perished since 2000 while migrating — 22,000 of them while trying to reach Europe.
"It's time to do more than count the number of victims," IOM chief William Lacy Swing said in a statement.
"It's time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants," added Swing, whose agency is not part of the United Nations but works closely with the world body.
The IOM report comes just weeks after one of the deadliest wrecks on record, when a ship carrying some 500 migrants, including Syrians, Palestinians and Egyptians and an estimated 100 children, sank.
The 11 known survivors have said the traffickers organizing their dangerous crossing from North Africa deliberately sank the vessel off Malta.
That catastrophe came less than a year after two shipwrecks near the Italian island of Lampedusa left more than 400 migrants dead, catapulting the issue into international headlines.
The grim tally of Mediterranean deaths during the first nine months of 2014 is already more than double the previous peak of 1,500 during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and nearly five times the prior peak of 630 in 2007, the organization said.
The soaring number of deaths "likely reflects a dramatic increase in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe," the report said.
More than 112,000 "irregular migrants" were detected by Italian authorities during the first eight months of this year — nearly three times as many as in all of 2013, it said.
"Many are fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty," the report said, with people trying to escape Syria's bloody civil war and Eritreans fleeing their repressive regime and forced, decades-long conscription accounting for the largest groups arriving in Italy this year.
The deteriorating security situation in Libya, a transit country for many migrants, is also pushing up the numbers of people trying to make it to Europe by any means possible, it said.

Elsewhere in the world, more than 6,000 migrants perished along the US-Mexican border between 1998 and 2013, meaning nearly 400 people died there annually over the 16-year-period.
Around 100 people have also died on average each year since 2000 in the seas bordering Australia, while thousands of others have succumbed in Africa's Sahara Desert and in the Indian Ocean.

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IOM fears Mediterranean death toll will increase

More than 1,750 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean since the start of 2015, a 30-fold increase over the same period last year, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday.

The grim new statistic followed the deaths of some 800 people on Sunday when a boat packed with migrants capsized near Libya in the deadliest Mediterranean shipping disaster for decades.
"IOM calculates the 2015 death toll now is more than 30 times last year's total at this date . . . when just 56 deaths of migrants had been reported on the Mediterranean," spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.
"IOM now fears the 2014 total of 3,279 migrant (deaths) on the Mediterranean may be surpassed this year in a matter of weeks, and could well top 30,000 by the end of the year, based on the current death toll," he said.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said Sunday's migrant boat tragedy was "the deadliest incident in the Mediterranean we have ever recorded."
Edwards said there had been 1,300 deaths in April alone, making it the deadliest month on record.   


The IOM spokesman said traffickers were increasingly packing in more people on overcrowded vessels, thereby greatly adding to the risk factor.
"The way we see it is that if there were 800 people on that fishing boat that sank . . . we can imagine that the same boat last year would have had 200 people on it," Millman said.
"If there's a real shortage of crafts they're going to do these reckless things," he said.

"If that's the case, and it appears to be, there is no reason not to be afraid that death rates could soar astronomically, because they are taking these measures to move people."
Volker Turk, the director of international protection at the UN refugee agency, said most of the migrants taking the perilous journey were refugees.
"If you look at the numbers last year, over 50 percent of the people who crossed the Mediterranean were people in need of international protection — mostly Syrians, Eritreans, some Somalis," he said.

Italy, one of the frontline European states for illegal immigration, suspended its Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation late last year in protest over its rising cost.
That was replaced by a smaller and much more restricted EU-led mission called Triton.
"With the end of Mare Nostrum, we indeed unfortunately predicted the types of scenarios that are playing out today, and we hope that the European council meeting on Thursday will give adequate attention to the search and rescue dimension of this issue," Turk said.