Mediterranean Sea migrant deaths reach 4,621 this year

Geneva, Nov 18 (IANS) The number of migrant deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea this year stood at 4,621, at least 1,000 more than the same period last year, a UN migration agency said.

The International Organisation for Migration said that presumed death of 350 migrants who went missing in the Mediterranean in recent days brought the total number of fatalities in the region so far to 4,621, EFE news reported.

“IOM reports that an estimated 350 migrants are missing, presumed dead after at least six incidents in the Mediterranean in the past three days,” an IOM statement said, adding that “last year some 3,777 migrants died trying to cross the Mediterranean”.

The IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded 546 deaths in November this year, compared to 81 registered between November 1 and 17 last year.

The recent incidents had many factors in common, the statement said, in that many of the rubber dinghies started to take on water in bad weather, causing the vessel to sink, meaning that many on board drowned.

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for the IOM office for the Mediterranean region in Rome, said it was a great concern that adverse weather conditions did not prevent human smugglers from forcing people onto the vessels.

“From the first testimonies that we collected so far, it seems that the migrants were forced on board, even though they were clearly afraid of the rough seas,” he said.

The statement said 170,679 migrants had arrived in Greece this year so far, while 167,276 arrived in Italy.

While these figures were much lower than the 728,926 who made it to European shores by November last year, the IOM had recorded a surge in departures from Libya.