Highest Ever: 5000 Migrants Drowned in Mediterranean in 2016

The UN said Friday that the number of migrants and refugees that had died in the Mediterranean in 2016 had risen to over 5,000. Although illegal immigration flows into Europe have declined, 'We can say that the death toll has increased by three times, ' said William Spindler, an UNHCR spokesman.

Just under 3,800 migrants died in the Mediterranean in 2015, according the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). More than 175,000 had arrived in Italy alone, a 19 per cent increase in crossings as against the same period a year ago. These latest tragedies bring the number of casualties in the Mediterranean this year to over 5,000. The second dinghy was carrying about 120 people and 80 were rescued by the Coastguard. The first dinghy was carrying between 120 and 140 people including many women and children. The Coastguard disembarked 264 people last night in Trapani, Sicily.

Rescuers saved around 300 migrants from rubber and wooden boats in the Mediterranean on Wednesday but recovered six dead bodies during the operations, the Italian coastguard said.

The UN said legal routes for refugees to reach Europe should include resettlement and family reunification programmes as well as private sponsorship and student scholarships to prevent refugees from resorting to the use of people smugglers.

He added that declining quality of the vessels used by people smugglers, the vagaries of the weather and the tactics used by them to avoid detection might be the root causes of the recent increase in deaths.

To avoid detection, smugglers have also resorted to mass embarkations and to sending larger numbers of people at the same time, making the work of coast guards and rescue vessels more hard. But this year, about 360,000 people have successfully crossed, most between Libya and Italy, with far more deadly results.

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