The Deadliest Year: Over 5,000 Migrants Die Crossing Mediterranean in 2016

World (Sputnik) – Over 5,000 migrants bound for Europe died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

The previous 2016 figure, released by the IOM in early December, put the number of those dead at 4,733, which was above 2015 figure by over 1,000.

“Arrival totals were 363,348 split almost evenly between Italy and Greece, with much smaller numbers arriving in Malta, Cyprus and Spain. Fatalities and missing migrants reached at least 5,079 although IOM emphasizes that some incidents reported in the month of December and earlier have not been fully accounted for,” the IOM said in a Missing Migrants Project statement.

The latest update makes 2016 the deadliest year on record for the Mediterranean migration route. The real figure, however, is likely to be higher due to unreported deaths, the statement added.

Most deaths occurred along sea routes between North Africa and Italy, amounting to over 4,000, according to earlier figures.

As of Friday, the number of people dead in 2017 amounts to 11, according to the IOM.

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The European Union has been struggling to manage a massive refugee crisis which escalated in 2015 with hundreds of thousands of people form the Middle East and North Africa seeking asylum in the EU member states. The EU border agency Frontex detected over 1.83 million illegal border crossings in 2015, in contrast to some 283,000 in 2014. Preliminary Frontex data for 2016 suggests that 182,500 people crossed the EU border, with the major drop attributed to the EU-Turkey deal on migrants. The figure contrasts sharply with the spike in migrant deaths.

This report prepared by Sputnik