2016 deadliest year ever for migrants crossing Mediterranean – UN agency

Migrants from the Mediterranean are rescued in the Channel of Sicily, Italy. Photo: IOM/Francesco Malavolta (file)

6 January 2017 – More migrants were killed crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2016 than ever before, according to the United Nations migration agency in the region.

At least 363,348 people crossed the sea – mostly to Italy and Greece – but 5,079 additional people were either killed or are missing. The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) released its preliminary figures today, but they are expected to increase with the addition of fatalities from December.

“The probable addition of several hundred more fatalities recorded in 2016 only deepens the tragedy,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

He added that Europe's frustration with a seemingly endless cycle of migrant rescue followed by reports of shipwrecks and more drownings will continue unless Governments throughout the region find a way to manage migration comprehensively.

Mr. Swing called for “finding creative means to permit safe, legal and secure migration” which could be done through work visas, family reunification or temporary protected status.

“Instead of doubling down on tactics that don't work, let's use this New Year to try something that's actually new,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, IOM today carried out its first aid training courses in Libya with rescuers involving migrant lifesaving operation in the Mediterranean Sea.

The training, which is part of the Sea and Desert Migration Management for Libyan Authorities to Rescue Migrants (SEA DEMM), was funded by the European Union.


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