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UN: 2016 Mediterranean refugee deaths hit record 3,800

The highest ever toll on the perilous route was recorded despite a significant decline in migrant crossing as compared to last year. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Geneva, Switzerland Oct 26, 2016, 09.28 PM (IST)

The United Nations on Wednesday said at least 3,800 migrants and refugees have perished this year while making the perilous journey to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, marking the deadliest yet. 

"We can confirm that at least 3,800 people have been reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, making the death toll in 2016 the highest ever recorded," UN refugee agency spokesman William Spindler told AFP in an email, as the figures passed last year's mark of 3,771. 

The sombre milestone was reached despite a significant decline in migrant crossing this year compared to 2015. 

Waters between Libya and Italy were the most dangerous, where the UN has recorded one death for every 47 arrivals this year. For the much shorter Turkey to Greece route, the likelihood of perishing was one in 88, UNHCR said. 

Last year, more than a million people reached Europe via the Mediterranean, but crossings so far this year remain below 330,000. The number of migrants travelling to Europe have reduced dramatically after the March deal between Turkey and the European Union to stem the migrant influx. 

But the death rates have gone up because smugglers are often "using low-quality vessels and packing an increasing number of people on boats", the UNHCR said.  

Shipwrecks involving more people have reduced rescue rates, the agency added, also noting that several disasters this year have been linked to the bad weather.    

(WION with inputs from agencies)


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