Mediterranean migrant deaths hit 1,565, arrivals reach 71,779
Geneva, Sep 7 (AKI/IANS) A total 1,565 migrants perished on the Mediterranean crossing to Europe this year through September 5 while 71,779 arrived over the period, the United Nations migration agency, the International Organisation for Migration said on Friday.
Spain, where 31,040 migrants arrived by sea this year, has overtaken Italy as the leading destination, IOM said. At further 4,575 irregular migrants entered Spain by land, according to IOM.
A total 20,250 boat migrants reached Italy through September 5, while 19,564 landed in Greece and 714 in Malta over the period, IOM reported.
Italy's sea arrivals to date are the lowest recorded by IOM since 2014 and lower than those recorded by Italian authorities during many individual months over the past five years, the agency noted.
Migrant sea arrivals in Europe this year dropped sharply from 125,613 during the same period of 2017 and 289,681 at same point of in 2016, the IOM said.
The proportion of migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year (2.18 per cent) was similar to the 2017 death rate (2.04 per cent), the IOM figures showed.
Italy's anti-migrant interior minister Matteo Salvini has barred rescue ships from delivering migrants to the country's ports since taking office in June and has set a goal of "zero" migration to Italy, where around 700,000 people have arrived by boat since 2014.
Salvini has also vowed to deport half a million illegal immigrants from Italy. He has accused charity rescue ships operating in the Mediterranean of abetting human trafficking gangs and of providing a "taxi service" for migrants.