Nearly 1,000 people died crossing the Mediterranean in 2017

Nearly 1,000 people died crossing the Mediterranean in 2017
Some 42,974 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea in Europe since the start of the year and nearly 1,000 have died along the way, IOM said.
2 min read
23 April, 2017
Distressing images of African migrants being plucked from seas have become regular [Getty]

Nearly 1,000 migrants and refugees have died since the beginning of this year attempting to reach Europe, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said.

Most of the deaths took place on the central Mediterranean route, from Libya and North Africa to destinations in southern Europe such as Italy.

The latest data also shows that some 42,974 others have arrived by sea this year, 85 percent (36,703) of whom were registered in Italy.

This exceeds by over 10,000 the number of arrivals registered over the same period in 2015 and 2016.

Most of those who reached Italy in 2017 hailed from Guinea, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Ivory Coast, IOM said.

In most cases, the migrants board boats operated by people traffickers in Libya, which is a key exit point for refugees trying to leave Africa for Europe as it is in the midst of a power struggle between rival factions.

Leaving from Libya's coast, the migrants mostly attempt to head for the Italian island of Lampedusa 300 kilometres away.

Smugglers use often rickety vessels to ferry thousands of refugees from the North African country to Europe each month. Mass drownings are common when the overloaded boats capsize or sink.

Distressing images of African migrants being plucked from heaving seas or the coffin-strewn aftermath of major sinkings have become a regular feature of television news bulletins since the crisis began spiralling out of control four years ago.

EU's border control agency Frontex has accused donor-funded vessels of doing more harm than good by sailing off Libya and acting "like taxis".

Italian prosecutors have suggested they may have links with traffickers - a charge they have fiercely denied.