More than 1,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean this year sailing from Libya to Europe, with a rush in the past few days to beat an anticipated crackdown by the European Union,
The International Organisation for Migration revealed the death toll on Sunday, reports Reuters.
Around 204 people have died in the past few days after being packed into unsafe vessels by smugglers, with 103 lost in a shipwreck on Friday.
More lives lost on Sunday when a rubber boat capsized east of Tripoli, with 41 survivors.
“There is an alarming increase in deaths at sea off Libya’s coast,” IOM’s Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi said in a statement.
“Smugglers are exploiting the desperation of migrants to leave before there are further crackdowns on Mediterranean crossings by Europe,” the IOM official said.
The flow of migrants has abated since a peak in 2015, with the number attempting the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa falling to tens of thousands from hundreds of thousands.
The other main route, from Turkey to Greece, used by more than a million people in 2015, was largely shut two years ago.
IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said the surge in recent days may be due to factors including weather and the end of Ramadan.
“But also there is a recognition I think worldwide that the European Union is starting to manage the process better so maybe they equally are trying to profit while they can. Smugglers will always put profit before safety.”
Despite the increase in deaths in recent days, the number lost at sea so far this year is less than half that recorded by this time last year.
But the journey by land through the Sahara and then across the Mediterranean remains world’s deadliest migration route, and as polarising as ever in European politics.
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