With two months still to go, the number of deaths of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean has hit an all-time high.
More than 3,700 migrants have drowned on their way to Europe.
The UNHCR says in 2015 there was one death for every 269 arrivals.
In 2016, it has spiralled to one in 88.
Between Libya and Italy it is even higher, at one in 47.
Aid agencies are warning that the perilous winter months are still to come.
Mediterranean death toll soars, 2016 is deadliest year yet: https://t.co/uMxDiA34mh via
refugees</a></p>— William Spindler (SpindlerWilliam) October 25, 2016
The UNHCR says:
- At least 3,741 have perished so far in 2016
- The total for 2015 was 3,771
- More than a million people made the crossing in 2015
- Just over 300,000 have made it so far in 2016
Fewer crossing but more deaths
UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler says the high loss of life comes despite a large overall fall in the numbers attempting the crossing to Europe.
Last year, 1,015,078 made the journey. This year so far, the total stands at 327,800.
The UNHCR has suggested several factors which may contribute to the increase.
- The Libya to Italy route is more perilous
- Lower-quality vessels are used in bad weather
- Smugglers tactics are changing eg mass embarkations
The central Mediterranean route
Since the European Union-Turkey deal in March to close down pathways to Greece, the Libya to Italy route across the central Mediterranean has become the main route.
One per every 47 migrants or refugees attempting the voyage between Libya and Italy is dying, said Mr Spindler.
“Smuggling has become a big business. It is being done almost on an industrial scale. So now they send several boats at the same time and that puts rescue services in difficulty because they need to rescue several thousand people on several hundred boats.”
“When you have so many people at sea on boats that are barely seaworthy, then the dangers obviously increase.”
Rescues so far this week
An estimated 2,200 migrants were plucked to safety in the central Mediterranean in 21 rescue missions on Monday alone.
The Italian coastguard says 16 bodies were recovered and brought ashore in Palermo.
At least 17 bodies from incidents at the weekend are also being brought ashore, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
“We were told by witnesses there may be many more. There may be other shipwrecks that occurred over the weekend that we are learning more about,” said IOM spokesman Joel Millman.
Another 500 people were rescued from four different boats on Tuesday.
From Friday until Sunday, Italy’s coastguard coordinated more than 6,000 sea rescues.
It brought arrivals this year to almost 155,000, the total for the whole of 2015.
In 2014, there were 170,000.
#CentraleOperativa coordina 21 soccorsi #MediterraneoCentrale: unità #GuardiaCostiera,
EUNAVFORMED_OHQ</a>, ONG e mercantili salvano 2200persone</p>— Guardia Costiera (guardiacostiera) October 24, 2016
Guardia costiera, oggi prelevati 510 migranti https://t.co/V4Y4oq263I— hele (@hele_fr) October 25, 2016
What Italy says
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says his country cannot handle the same number of migrant arrivals next year that it has seen in 2016.
Renzi has threatened to veto the payment of EU funds to countries that refuse to help Italy and Greece.
Both countries have taken in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the past three years.
“Italy cannot take another year like the one we have just had,” Renzi said.
He has frequently denounced a lack of European solidarity over the migrant crisis.
Italy is seeking EU approval for an expansionary budget that includes some 3.9 billion euros in spending on migrants next year.
What they are saying
“This is by far the worse we ever have seen in the Mediterranean. You could say that the death rate has increased three-fold,” – William Spindler, spokesman for the UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees.
Find out more about what the UNHCR said here