More than 1,160 migrants died at sea attempting to reach Europe from North Africa in the first half of 2021, up 155 percent year-on-year, the UN’s migration agency said Thursday.
The most deadly passage was across the central Mediterranean, where 769 deaths were recorded, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a report drawing on data from its “Missing Migrants Project.”
The central Mediterranean route, running from Tunisia and Libya to Italy and Malta, has claimed more than 18,000 migrant lives since 2014, according to IOM.
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The Western Africa-Atlantic crossing to Spain’s Canary Islands was the second most deadly during the first half of last year, with 250 fatalities, it said.
The recorded migrant death toll across these two routes in the first half of 2020 was 450.
“Mobility restrictions” driven by policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic “exacerbated the challenges facing migrant populations, forcing them to undertake perilous crossings,” IOM noted in its report.
The surge in deaths came alongside evidence of both increased arrivals in at least one key destination and rising interceptions.
More than 30,000 migrants were intercepted off North Africa in the first half of last year, up from 23,000 in the same period of 2020, amid increased maritime operations by both Libya and Tunisia, IOM said.
Arrivals in Italy rose 67 percent between the first and second quarters of 2021, culminating in monthly arrivals reaching almost 6,000 in both May and June, it said.
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