AT least 871 migrants have died or are missing during the dangerous attempt to reach Europe through the Mediterranean this year. Some 517 of those migrants are confirmed to have died.
The deaths at sea, mostly through boats that depart Libya, are in line with trends reported by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) over three years.
This year, nearly 140 irregular migrants have died trying to reach Spain, which is about two-thirds the 2017 total, yet with three quarters of the year remaining.
In Italy, there have been 360 deaths on the Mediterranean's Central Route through 100 days to the beginning of 2018.
IOM, the United Nations migration agency, reports that nonetheless, 15 289 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through the first 95 days of 2018, with about 44 percent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece (33 percent) Spain (23 percent) and Cyprus (less than 1 percent).
This compares with 31 060 at this point in 2017, and with 172 089 in 2016.
"Even though the death toll is smaller, the ratio of drownings to arrivals is actually much higher than was recorded this time last year," IOM stated.
IOM Libya's Christine Petré said the Libyan Coast Guard had last week returned 80 migrants, all men, to safety in the North African country.
Most of those migrants rescued from a rubber boat trying to reach Italy were from Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria and Sudan.