Nearly 3,000 people died trying to reach Europe from Africa in the first half of this year, announced the International Organization for Migration (OIM) on July 8. In the same period last year, the death toll was about 1,800.
The tragic increase might appear to reflect an overall increase of migrants and refugees risking all types of passage to Europe—about 231,000 people arrived in Europe so far in 2016, compared to about 142,000 in all of 2015. But the majority of this year’s deaths (2,500) occurred on the perilous central Mediterranean sea route from Libya to Sicily, where arrivals have remained the same, at about 70,000 in the first six months of each year.
The largest number of migrant arrivals in Europe this year came through the safer eastern route connecting Greece to Turkey, where only 376 deaths have been recorded. But passage on this route slowed to a trickle in March, after an agreement to start sending asylum seekers back to Turkey.
In only six months, 2016 already stands out as one of the deadliest years for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Before 2014, the death toll never reached 2,000 (link in Italian), according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR),