A total of 1,987 migrants drowned while crossing the Mediterranean this year and over two-thirds died in waters between North Africa and Sicily despite a sharp fall in arrivals to Italy, the United Nations migration agency said on Tuesday.
Although 2,651 migrants perished on the crossing to Italy from North Africa through late October last year, the death-rate was 2.4 percent compared with over 9 percent this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
“The Mediterranean remains a lethal passage for migrants, despite the sharp drop in traffic on the deadly central Mediterranean route,” IOM stated.
A total 22,027 migrants reached Italy this year through 28 October, less than a fifth of the number who arrived over the same period of 2017, the IOM figures showed.
A total of 47,433 migrants crossed to Spain across the Mediterranean this year through 28 October – more than twice the number who reached Italy and nearly half the total arrivals, making it the leading destination this year, IOM said.
Greece, with 36,940 arrivals through 28 October, received the second highest number of boat migrants this year after Italy’s hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini closed the country’s ports to rescue ships, forcing many migrants to head to other countries.
The 97,857 migrants who entered Europe through 28 October by sea compare with 147,170 arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 334,914 at this point of 2016, IOM said.
A further 20,812 migrants entered Europe by land through 28 October, bringing this year’s total arrivals to 118,669, according to the IOM.