Migrant crisis death toll crosses 5,000, says UN refugee agency

Geneva: The number of migrants and refugees who have perished while trying to cross the Mediterranean this year has passed 5,000, the UN said on Friday after two more deadly shipwrecks.

The latest incidents happened on Thursday when an estimated 100 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after two rubber dinghies collapsed, the UN refugee agency said, citing reports from the Italian coastguard.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In October, UNHCR declared 2016, the deadliest year ever for migrants trying to reach Europe on the Mediterranean route, when the fatality mark hit 3,800.

Deaths have surged this year because migrant smugglers are increasingly using poor quality vessels while also trying to pack more people on boats, possibly to raise profits, UNHCR has said.

"An average of 14 people have died every day in the Mediterranean Sea during 2016," UNHCR said in a statement.

The higher death rate has come despite a drop in the number of migrants crossing the sea this year compared to 2015.

Last year, more than a million people reached Europe via the Mediterranean, but crossings this year were below 360,000, the International Organisation for Migration said on Friday.

Numbers began dropping dramatically following a March deal between Turkey and the European Union to stem the migrant tide towards the Greek islands.

Updated Date: Dec 23, 2016 18:11 PM

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