The International Organization for Migration has reported that 1,857 irregular migrants died while trying to reach Europe by sea this year. The UN agency also said that a reported 94,676 migrants and refugees reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in 2018, while over 13,000 were repatriated from Libya as part of the Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) program.
Despite a significant drop in illegal migrant crossings along the central Mediterranean route, the Mediterranean Sea remains a lethal pathway for migrants, according to the latest data released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The UN agency said that since the start of the year until October 21, a total of 1,857 irregular migrants died while trying to reach Europe by sea. Over two-thirds lost their lives between Northern Africa and Sicily, added IOM in a statement released in Geneva.
94,676 entered Europe by sea since the start of 2018
IOM reported that 94,676 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 21 October. 45,145 of them traveled to Spain, the leading destination with 46 percent of arrivals through the year. The arrivals in Italy were 21,935 while Greece registered 25,938 entries, IOM said.
13,000 voluntary repatriations from Libya in 2018
IOM reported that the total number of vulnerable migrants going home in 2018 on Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flights from Tripoli and other Libyan cities has now surpassed 13,000 - to 32 separate countries of origin - marking the first time on record.
IOM has sent back from Libya more men, women and children than the total number of irregular migrants sailing to Italy from that country, the organization said.
Since January 1 through October 19, 12,465 men, women and children arrived in Italy by sea after leaving Libya out of a total of nearly 22,000 migrants who reached Italy by sea. The remaining migrants mainly left from Tunisia and Algeria, as well as other countries along the Mediterranean coast, IOM said.
The agency noted that the similarity in the number of arrivals from Libya to Italy and the number of migrants repatriated from Libya to their home country does not imply that each migrant who traveled under the VHR program would have otherwise left for Italy. IOM observed that increased patrolling by Libyan Coast Guard units who intercepted migrants offshore and returned them to Libya had an impact on the number of irregular voyages completed to Italy this year.