More than 2,600 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean in 2017

Photo: Mauro Seminara/AFP/Getty Images

TMP – 03/10/2017

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has recorded the deaths of at least 2,654 migrants crossing the Mediterranean so far this year. The majority of the deaths have occurred on the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy.

In the Central Mediterranean, seven migrants died and 90 remain missing after a boat capsized on 20 September off the coast of Zuwara in Libya. IOM also confirmed a shipwreck off the Libyan coast last week, with at least 90 missing migrants.
According to IOM there has been a significant decrease in the number of migrants entering Europe by sea. Official figures from the Italian Ministry of Interior show that there has been a 21.5% reduction in the number of migrants arriving to Italy since last year.

This reduction is likely due to tighter controls by the Libyan coastguard, making it harder for migrants to reach the European coast, and the suspension of multiple search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, including those run by Doctors without Borders and Save the Children. Smugglers in Libya are also continuing to put migrants onto flimsy rubber boats that are often unable to make the crossing to Italy safely.

Recent efforts by the Italian government to help Libyan authorities intercept migrant boats in Libyan waters is also assumed to be fueling the smaller number of migrants reaching Italy’s shores. Italy is leading EU-sponsored efforts to train the Libyan coastguard, establish a functioning maritime rescue coordination center and improve detention conditions in Libya.
A report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN mission in Libya at the end of last year documented widespread malnutrition, forced labour, illness, beatings, sexual abuse, torture and other abuses in Libyan detention centers.