The UN agency International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported that migrant arrivals in Europe this year dropped significantly from the same period last year, amid the European crisis over the case of migrant-rescue vessel Aquarius.
The UN agency for migration IOM has reported that 35,504 migrants and refugees reached Europe by sea this year, as of June 10. That's less than half as many as in 2017, when 73,748 people reached Europe within the same time period.
This month, a reported 2,745 people reached Italy, Greece and Spain. Most of them travelled to Spain.
A total of 14,330 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2018, down 76.81% from the 61,779 recorded over the same period in 2017.
IOM also reported that 792 people died in the Mediterranean Sea this year.
IOM director says 'stopping boats is not the answer'
Over 1,420 migrants were rescued at sea at the weekend, IOM said in a statement. They included the nearly 630 migrants rescued Saturday who are aboard the Aquarius, as well as an additional 790 on Sunday, who were taken to Italy.
IOM's Director General William Lacy Swing has welcomed Spain's decision to accept the migrants - including dozens of minors and seven pregnant women - who had been waiting aboard the Aquarius since Sunday. The Italian government's has refused to let the ship dock at an Italian port over the weekend.
''Stopping one boat or more in the Mediterranean Sea is not an answer to Europe's migration challenges. A comprehensive approach to migration governance is needed, combining opportunities for safe and orderly movement, humane border management and countering migrant smuggling and trafficking'', said Swing.
Hundreds taken back to Libya over the weekend
IOM provided emergency health assistance, including pregnancy check-ups and treatment for fuel burn wounds, to 262 migrants (196 men, 48 women, 18 children) who were taken back by Libyan coast guards on Saturday.
The UN agency said it also distributed food and water, as well as blankets, mattresses and hygiene kits to the migrants.
Some 110 people had departed from Sabratha aboard a rubber boat with most coming from Mali, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Cameroon. 152 migrant had left from Garaboli and Zwara on two rubber dinghies, with the majority hailing from Mali, the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Senegal.
So far this year, 7,114 migrants have been returned to Libyan shores by the Libyan coast guard, IOM said. (IOM staff assisting migrants. Credit: IOM/ANSA)
In spite of the The Aquarius is at the center of a crisis following the Italian government's refusal to allow it to offload 629 migrants at an Italian port over the weekend.