Mediter­ranean death toll tops record 5,000 in 2016

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

GENEVA:

Around 100 peo­ple are miss­ing and feared dead af­ter two ship­wrecks off Italy, rais­ing the es­ti­mated death toll among mi­grants on the Mediter­ranean this year to at least 5,000 - a new an­nual record, UN agen­cies said yesterday.

Deaths linked to Mediter­ranean cross­ings by mi­grants mostly seek­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity or rel­a­tive peace in Europe have spiked in 2016. Last year, over a mil­lion peo­ple crossed the sea - mostly from Turkey to Greece - with 3,771 deaths recorded. But this year, about 360,000 peo­ple have suc­cess­fully crossed, most be­tween Libya and Italy, with far more deadly re­sults.

“The lat­est in­for­ma­tion we have is that yesterday, in two in­ci­dents, as many as 100 peo­ple lost their lives,” said Wil­liam Spindler, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. “The num­ber of peo­ple who have lost their lives on the Mediter­ranean this year has now passed 5,000,” he added. “That means that on av­er­age, 14 peo­ple have died ev­ery sin­gle day this year in the Mediter­ranean try­ing to find safety or a better life or safety in Europe.”

Cit­ing sur­vivors’ ac­counts, spokesman Joel Mill­man of the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion said that at least 57 peo­ple were feared dead fol­low­ing the cap­siz­ing Thurs­day of a rub­ber dinghy car­ry­ing be­tween 120 and 140 peo­ple. He said eight bod­ies had been re­cov­ered in that area. An­other 40 peo­ple were feared dead from an­other dinghy also car­ry­ing about 120 peo­ple. Mill­man said he did not im­me­di­ately have fur­ther de­tails about the pos­si­ble causes of the ship­wrecks.

UNHCR said the Ital­ian coast guard car­ried out a to­tal of four res­cue op­er­a­tions in the cen­tral Mediter­ranean on Thurs­day, in­clud­ing the res­cue of about 175 peo­ple from an­other dinghy and a wooden boat. The coast guard helped dis­em­bark the res­cued sur­vivors at the west­ern Si­cil­ian town of Tra­pani. — AP

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