Migrant arrivals in Europe by sea averaged more than 1700 a day during the first 11 days of 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
The period also saw the year’s first fatalities in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy, a route that took the lives of almost 3000 migrants and refugees in 2015.
Flavio Di Giacomo of IOM Rome said that on January 11, Italian authorities in Santa Maria di Leuca (Apulia) recovered the body of a drowned woman, reportedly thrown into the sea by smugglers, together with 37 other Somali migrants who made it to shore safely from the same vessel. Up to eight other migrants are still missing.
A further 220 migrants were rescued at sea en route to Italy during the period, according to Di Giacomo.
“The migrants included men and women. From Turkey, they travelled to Greece and then to Italy. When the boat was close to the coast, the smugglers reportedly forced them to jump into the water and swim – even those who did not have life jackets. Women who initially refused were beaten,” he said.
Meanwhile IOM Greece reports that irregular migrants and refugees from more than 70 countries arrived and were registered by the Greek authorities in 2015.
Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan nationals accounted for nearly 770 000 of some 848 000 arrivals. However, some of the countries of origin of arrivals were not quite in the Middle East and North Africa – the list included, among many others, 46 from China, 50 from the Comores, two from Cuba, two from Moldova and 15 from South Africa.
IOM Greece reported that the Greek authorities have taken into custody a total 482 people suspected of involvement in human smuggling. They include 163 Turks, 141 Syrians, 66 Ukrainians, 28 Afghans, 17 Iraqis and 12 Greeks. Other people detained include Russians, Pakistanis, Algerians, Palestinians, Egyptians, a Dane and four citizens of the Dominican Republic.
(Migrants and refugees bound for Italy. © IOM/Francesco Malavolta)