5 March 2018

Libya: Hundreds Drown in Fatal Trips to Europe

Tripoli — MORE than 400 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year during attempts to reach Europe.

The 418 deaths are nonetheless significantly lower than this period last year when 485 casualties were recorded in the first two months of 2017.

Most recently, four deaths were recorded on the Western Mediterranean route between North Africa and Spain. This brings to 102 the number of deaths in that route, more than twice the total at this time in 2017, when the International Office of Migration (IOM) recorded 41 fatalities on the route.

The casualties are African migrants crossing from Libya, the hostile North African country that was at the centre of the resurfacing of slave trade last year.

Migrants appear undeterred by the Mediterranean Sea's infamous reputation as a so-called cemetery due to the large amounts of migrants who have drowned there after their boats capsized.

IOM reports that 10 243 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by the sea through the first two months of 2018. The journey is over 1 700 kilometres.

Slightly over half of the migrants have arrived in Italy. The remainder is divided almost evenly between Greece and Spain.

The arrivals compare with 17 438 arrivals across the region through the same period last year.

Christine Petré, a spokesperson of the IOM Libya, said the organisation had assisted 3 730 vulnerable migrants to return to 26 countries from Libya this year.

Last week, 315 migrants were carried on three flights to Benin, Mali and Niger.

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