The UN agency International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said that 50,872 migrants and refugees this year have reached Europe by sea as of July 15. The total is less than half of the 109,746 migrants registered over the same period in 2017 and almost a fifth of the 241,859 recorded in 2016.
Missing Migrants Project has documented the death of 1,443 migrants in the Mediterranean so far this year.
Last week, the number of arrivals in Spain exceeded those registered in Italy: as of today, just over 35% of all irregular migrants who travelled by sea followed the western Mediterranean route. Their number has tripled compared to the same period last year. Greece has registered about 29% of the total number of arrivals with almost 5,000 additional migrants who reached the country illegally by sea compared to the same period in 2017, up more than 50%.
Arrivals in Italy have dropped more than 80% compared to 2017, or more precisely 87%, according to data provided by EU border agency Frontex.
Data on Italy
The report drafted by IOM in Rome said that, in spite of the drop in arrivals, the central Mediterranean route remains the deadliest in the region, with almost four times the number of drownings compared to Spain since January 1, in spite of the fact that the number of arrivals was almost identical.
The Italian branch of the organization reported the new data provided by the Italian interior ministry regarding the nationality of the 16,566 irregular migrants who arrived by sea until the end of June. Tunisian nationals were the largest group, it said, with just over 3,000 individuals - almost one in five arrivals. Less than 600 Tunisians were registered among arrivals in the first half of 2017.
On the contrary, the arrivals of the nine other main nationalities - Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea, Pakistan, Iraq and Algeria - dropped, in some cases in a significant way.
The situation in Spain and Greece
The representative of IOM in Madrid, Ana Dodevska, said that the total number of arrivals by sea in 2018 in the country reached 18,016 men, women and children - irregular migrants who were rescued in the western Mediterranean until July 15.
The data indicated that Spain was the most sought-after destination of the Mediterranean for irregular migrants traveling by sea, ahead of Italy and Greece. Moreover, nearly 3,000 additional migrants (2,874 according to Spanish authorities) have tried to enter Spain illegally through the African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
As far as Greece is concerned, Christine Nikolaidou of IOM in Athens said that, as of July 15, a total of 14,678 people reached Greece by sea since January 1. The highest number of irregular arrivals by land and sea in Greece was recorded in April with a total of 7,009 men, women and children who traveled to the country.