GENEVA, FEBRUARY 17 – IOM reported on Friday that 12,381 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 15 February – just under 9,500 to Italy, just under 2,000 to Greece, and 1,000 to Spain. This compares with 84,645 arrivals during the first seven weeks of 2016 – 90 percent of whom arrived in Greece.
Today’s numbers show a significant increase in arrivals to Italy compared with the same period last year – 9,448, up from 6,123 – while the traffic to Greece has practically dried up. IOM Athens reports daily average arrivals in Greece of 42 in 2017 – compared with nearly 1,500 during the same period last winter.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reports an estimated 272 deaths at sea on various Mediterranean routes this winter, compared with 417 at this time last year. It is important to note that 2016’s Mediterranean death toll at this point was mostly on the eastern route. Some 320 people – three quarters of the total – died between Turkey and Greece. This winter, the route has accounted for just two fatalities.
The central Mediterranean route between Libya to Italy has recorded 232 fatalities through February 15.
Another 38 deaths have been recorded on the western route between North Africa and Spain. Last year only seven people died on this route.
During the whole of 2016, Missing Migrants recorded a total of 70 deaths along this route, which means that 2017’s total already has passed last year’s half-way mark after just seven weeks.
Missing Migrants has reported three incidents since January 30 – including two this week – that have resulted in 14 fatalities along this route.
On 30 January, three migrants were reported missing, while 11 were rescued by Guardia Civil units off Almeria. On 12 February three migrants landed on the Spanish coast at Tarifa, telling authorities two other members of their party drowned when their small craft foundered. Then on Wednesday (15/2), nine migrants were reported lost in the Strait of Gibraltar. Two were rescued in that incident.
No landings have taken place in Italy since Sunday. But Italy’s Ministry of Interior has released data on the top nationalities arriving by sea as irregular migrants through January.
Of the top ten sender countries, all but two – Iraq and Bangladesh – are from Africa, with all but one of those African countries – Morocco – considered Sub-Saharan. Cote d’Ivoire, with 839 arrivals reported the highest tally, followed by Guinea (796), Nigeria (483), Senegal (431), The Gambia (359) and Mali (282). Morocco (257), Bangladesh (224), Iraq (131) and Cameroon (117) surpassed more traditional senders like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and the Sudan. Many Eritreans and Ethiopians have been recorded as fatalities this year, so it is somewhat surprising that relatively few people from these countries arrived in Italy this year.