The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said that 110,833 migrants and refugees reached Europe by sea in 2018 as of December 9. This is the fifth consecutive year during which irregular migrants and refugees exceed the 100,000 threshold.
However the total number of arrivals registered in 2018 was lower compared to the same period in 2017 (165,536) and 2016 (354,395). IOM's Missing Migrants Project said that the Mediterranean continues to be the deadliest area for migrants globally, with 2,160 people reported dead or missing so far in 2018.
The Italian situation
IOM's representative in Rome, Flavio Di Giacomo, said that the total number of irregular arrivals by sea in the Mediterranean region was lower this year - by nearly 10,000 people - compared to arrivals in Italy alone over the same period in 2017.
Last year, by the beginning of December, Italy had registered 117,394 irregular arrivals of migrants and refugees by sea. Di Giacomo noted that the official data provided by the Italian interior ministry indicated that the 23,011 migrants and refugees who reached Italy by sea this year represented an 80.30 percent decrease compared to the total number recorded last year over the same period.
Most of the migrants and refugees who arrived from North Africa as of the end of November hailed from Tunisia, although their number was significantly lower compared to the total registered in 2017. The number of arrivals dropped for other nationalities as well, in particular from West Africa. Nigeria alone had some 80,000 irregular migrants who traveled to Italy from Libya between 2015 and 2017 - an average of 26,000 a year - while this year only 1,250 Nigerians reached Italy along this route by the end of November.
The Greek case
The IOM office in Greece reported that between December 7 and 10 the Greek coast guard (HCG) reported at least seven incidents that required search and rescue operations off the islands of Lesvos, Symi, Samos and the port of Alexandropoli.
HCG rescued a total of 238 migrants and transferred them to various points of arrival. The 238 people who were rescued - together with an additional 51 who arrived in Leros, Ikaria and elsewhere - brought the total to 30,384 arrivals of irregular migrants in Greece so far this year. The number was higher than the total (29,501) number of migrants who arrived by sea during 2017. In addition, over 15,000 irregular migrants reached Greece by land this year.