With more than a week left in the first month of 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on January 22 that deaths of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean already make this the deadliest January on record.
Deaths in the past 24 hours bring to at least 113 the total number of fatalities recorded, which is more than the past two Januaries combined, when 94 deaths were recorded – 12 in January 2014 and 82 in January 2015, IOM said.
With nearly 37 000 migrants and refugees now having arrived in Italy and Greece by sea in 2016, that figure is roughly 10 times 2015’s total on this date. For Greece and the Western Balkans, the increase is well over 20 times 2015’s total on this date.
Late on January 21, IOM Athens reported two shipwrecks in the Aegean in which at least 15 people lost their lives.
Kelly Namia of the IOM office said one boat carrying 55 migrants crashed into rocky area off the Farmakonisi islands. The Hellenic Coast Guard immediately launched search and rescue operations in which they recovered the remains of six children and one adult woman. Namia said 48 migrants were rescued.
At the same time, another incident occurred off Kalolymnos Island, where the HCG rescued 26 migrants, while remains of eight migrants or refugees were discovered: three men, three women and two minors.
The number of those missing is not known, although there are estimations that 70-100 migrants were on board.
The 95 deaths recorded in the waters between Turkey and Greece bring to 900 the number of men, women and children who have died on the so-called Eastern Mediterranean route since the beginning of 2015.
On the Central Route linking North Africa to Sicily, IOM reports that 18 men and women have been reported missing or drowned in 2016 – bringing the total since January 2015 to 2910.
While deaths in the waters between Turkey and Greece have become almost a daily occurrence, there have been just two known shipwrecks between Libya and Italy so far this year.
On January 11, Italian authorities reported the deaths of nine Somalis off the coast of Santa Maria di Leuca, Puglia. One body was recovered, eight are still missing. A further nine migrants of unknown nationality were reported missing in the Channel of Sicily on January 18.
In the year’s first three weeks, just 950 migrants have been rescued in Central Mediterranean waters, a considerable drop off from 2015, when 3528 migrants were rescued in the area.
Additionally, about 280 migrants were due to arrive on the afternoon of January 22 in Pozzallo.
By contrast, the Eastern Mediterranean route continues to be busy, with 35 949 arrivals recorded by January 20, or about 1800 a day, IOM said.
(The Italian Coast Guard rescues migrants and refugees bound for Italy. Photo: IOM/Francesco Malavolta)