500 Refugees Drown Since Start of Year
Some 500 refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year, as they tried to make the perilous journey from North Africa to Italy.
The figure was announced by an official report released on Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration, Telesur TV reported.
January was the deadliest month, with 228 victims. In February, the number reached 217 while in March, 36 deaths have so far been registered.
In contrast, in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece, which was the most common route for asylum seekers until April last year, one death was recorded in January and another in February.
In 2015, migrants and refugees seeking asylum in Europe reached a record number of 1.8 million, but this number decreased to just over 500,000 in 2016.
Greece closed its borders as the result of an agreement signed in March 2016 between the European Union and Turkey. But the influx of migrants and refugees between Libya and Italy has increased significantly.
As of mid-March 2017, the IOM states that 20,000 people have arrived in Europe, the majority, around 16,000, traveling via the central route of the Mediterranean.