The number of migrants who have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year has climbed above 2,000, the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration (IOM), said in a statement on Friday. Of the 2,108 victims, 2,011 perished at sea between Libya and Italy as the journey in the central Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Italy is the deadliest route taken by migrants.
Although the U.N. organization recorded fewer deaths in the same period last year, IOM spokesman Joel Milman said in Geneva that 2017 marks the fourth year in a row in which more than 2,000 people have died in the Mediterranean.
Since the inflow of refugees and migrants started in 2013, nearly 15,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe by boat, an average of 10 every day. In the first half of this year, nearly 84,000 migrants reached Europe after crossing the Mediterranean, most of them arriving in Italy.
The sea crossing from Libya to Italy, operated by people-smugglers based in the North African country, is now the main route for migrants bound for Europe. In Libya, the turmoil engulfing this North African country has become a death trap for thousands of migrants, most of them from sub-Saharan African countries, seeking to escape poverty and find a better life in Europe.
Libya, the oil-rich North African country, descended into chaos after Western intervention, and parts of it have become a bastion for Daesh, giving the militants a new base even as its territory in Syria and Iraq shrinks under constant assault. Five years after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by NATO intervention, the country has become the main jump-off point for migrants heading for Europe, and the breeding ground for militants as there is no security or stability left in the war-torn country.
Meanwhile, over 400 migrants were rescued at sea off the coast of southern Spain in the past week, rescue services said Thursday. Spanish coast guards rescued migrants on 16 boats making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing, as an increasing amount of people seek entry into Europe through Spain. The number of migrants headed to Spain by sea has soared this year, rising threefold in the first four months compared to the same period last year. Most of the migrants rescued over the last week were escorted to ports in the region of Andalusia, including 180 who were taken to the coastal city of Almeria. According to the IOM, nearly 3,300 people reached Spain by sea between January and the end of April, and at least 59 died attempting to cross. The number of migrants reaching Spain remains much lower than in Italy, which counted over 69,000 migrants arriving by sea between the beginning of the year and June 18, while 1,889 died en route.