UN: Migrant death toll in Mediterranean in 2016 tops 5,000

World Today

Migrants, most of them from Eritrea, jumps onto the water from a crowded wooden boat as they are helped by members of an NGO during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean sea, about 13 miles north of Sabratha, Libya.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

At least 90 migrants are missing off of the coast of Italy after two shipwrecks, brining the annual Mediterranean death toll to over 5,000 for the first time, according to UN numbers.

The increased number of deaths in the Mediterranean in 2016 can be linked to the use of substandard boats and harsh conditions at sea, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration Spokesman in Rome, Flavio Di Giacomo.

“This tragedy reminds us that the humanitarian emergency involving thousands of people dying while trying to flee Libya is not over,” said Di Giacomo. “In 2016 the number of arrivals by sea in Italy has kept growing, but the number of migrants dying is up dramatically.”

In 2016, over 5,000 people died, compared to 3,777 deaths in 2015, according to the UN agency. “That is nearly more than 2,000 more than in 2014, another year when over 3,000 men, women and children were lost on this dangerous passage,” Di Giacomo said.

Last year, over a million people crossed the sea – mostly from Turkey to Greece – with 3,771 deaths recorded. But this year, about 360,000 people have successfully crossed, most between Libya and Italy, with far more deadly results.

Infographic: Number of Migrant Deaths 2016 Highest Ever Recorded | Statista
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“We are seeing more migrants crossing this winter. This trend confirms the fact that conditions in Libya are becoming increasingly dangerous for migrants, who are often trying to flee the country in order to save their lives,” he said.

The deaths were because migrants are making the Mediterranean crossings, mostly seeking economic opportunity or relative peace.

This story has elements of reporting by The Associated Press.