By Prudence Arobani
Almost 50,000 migrants had so far crossed the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe in 2017, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
IOM Spokesperson Joel Millman, also put the number of migrants and refugees killed while trying to cross the straits to at least 1,309 in 2017.
“Some 49,310 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea so far this year.
“The figure is lower than the 187,569 arrivals between January and May 7, 2016,’’ IOM reported.
Millman said the reason for the lower figure of arrivals in 2017 compared to 2016, was the “strong drop” in traffic on the Turkey to Greece route following the Turkey-European Union deal reached in March.
The IOM spokesperson said most of the activities so far this year were from the Libya to Italy route as well as to Spain.
Millman said the development was an indication that smugglers’ networks were starting to unravel.
“The components that smugglers feel they need to conduct this business are getting harder and harder to come by in a place like Libya, and so that would account for some of the violence and some of the robbery,” he said.
Also speaking from Rome on Tuesday, IOM’s Head in Italy, Ms Flavia Giacomo stated that political prisoners were among those fleeing the country.
“Our field colleagues providing direct assistance at the harbours reported that many migrants bore signs of torture,” Giacomo said.