At least 170 000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea in the first three months of 2016, a figure more than eight times higher than in the first three months of 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
IOM said that by March 31 2016, there had been 620 deaths at sea, 23 per cent higher than the 505 in the first three months of 2015.
Deaths of minors – all recorded in the waters linking Turkey to Greece – now stand at 358 since the first of September, 2015. Child drownings made up nearly half the deaths recorded on the same route during the last four months of 2015, but only a quarter of migrant fatalities so far this year.
IOM said that its unofficial tally of arrivals was based on arrivals to Italy reported late on March 31, as well as several hundred migrants and refugees believed to have entered Europe via Spanish waters during the course of 2016.
It said that its confirmed figures included 169 060 migrants and refugees who had entered Europe by sea up to March 30. This includes 150 703 via the Eastern Mediterranean (Turkey to Greece) and 18,357 via the Central Mediterranean (North Africa to Italy.)
On the Eastern Mediterranean route, 366 migrants or refugees are believed to have died on the passage between Turkey and Greece – an average of just more than four a day.
Meanwhile in Greece, the number of migrant and refugee arrivals from Turkey decreased significantly in March 2016, with only 27 000 arrivals recorded – roughly half the number recorded in February 2016.
IOM estimates that 150 703 migrants and refugees have crossed into the Greek islands since the beginning of 2016. Most have arrived in Lesbos (53 per cent), Chios (30 per cent) and Samos (nine per cent). The remainder have arrived in Leros (three per cent), Megisti (two per cent), Kos (one per cent) and other islands (two per cent). About 42 per cent of the newly arrived migrants and refugees were adult men, 21 per cent adult women and 37 per cent children.
IOM’s estimates show that in the first three months of 2016, Italy registered the arrival of more than 18 000 people – an increase of more than 8000 compared to the same period last year.
At least 9200 migrants were rescued at sea by Italian and international vessels in March – four times the 2283 rescued during March 2015.
By March 31, 18 357, migrants had arrived in Italy in 2016. A further 985 – 591 bound for Salerno; and 394 who arrived in Palermo late Thursday night – would bring the total to more than 19 000, IOM said.
According to IOM data, 249 migrants died in the Channel of Sicily this year, an average of almost three a day, despite the harsh winter conditions that kept larger vessels from attempting passage.
IOM recorded 489 Mediterranean deaths of migrants and refugees in the first 90 days of 2015.
(Photo: Francesco Malavolta/IOM)