A total of 3 740 migrants, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa, have died so far in the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to get to Europe, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said last week.
The dead include women and children, but also pregnant women.
Eritrea, Sudan, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia are believed to be the countries that supply most of migrant adventurers.
Though the year still has two months left before it ends, the UN agency said 2016 was the deadliest year for migrants embarking on such dangerous adventures.
“This is the worst we have ever seen,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler said at a press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
“From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiralled to one in 88.”
Spindler said the high loss of life takes place despite a large overall fall this year in the number of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Last year more than one million have successfully crossed the sea, the UNHCR said, adding that this year’s crossing stands at 327 800.
“Between Libya and Italy the likelihood of dying is even higher, at one death for every 47 arrivals,” he added, referring to what is called the Central Mediterranean route.
“People smugglers are today often using lower-quality vessels – flimsy inflatable rafts that often do not last the journey.”
The causes of the increase are multiple: about half those who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year have travelled from North Africa to Italy – a more perilous route, the UN said.
Pic by Massimo Sestini for the Italian Navy