2016 is the deadliest year for refugee deaths in the Mediterranean yet

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Tuesday 02 August 2016 16:30
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Picture: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

In the fast-moving news cycles of 2016, one important story is in danger of being buried: this year is set to be the deadliest on record for people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

More refugees from across the Middle East and North Africa fleeing war, discrimination and poverty at home are dying more than ever before in their desperate attempts to reach Europe.

Map: International Organisation for Migration

At least 3,120 people have drowned or suffocated in overcrowded, unsafe smugglers' boats this year already, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The EU-Turkey deal has led to a shift in who is crossing the Mediterranean, and how, which experts think is to blame for the increased number of deaths.

While fewer people are making the crossing to Greece following the deal designed to stop the flow of people, the sea route between Libya and Italy has become the most dangerous crossing in the world.

Picture: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

The Aegean Sea crossing is relatively short, and refugees, mostly from Syria, are usually picked up by EU border agency patrol boats.

But the flow of people arriving in Libya from restive or repressive places such as Nigeria, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan are subject to more ruthless smugglers, who often abuse the people under their watch, and larger, more unsafe boats.

The business is booming, enabled by the lack of government control in Libya due to the bloody civil war.

Aid organisations working in the field have expressed frustration at European authorities for not doing more to tackle the human cost of the crisis.

Kim Clausen, a field coordinator for MSF Sea's search and rescue operations, told the Independent:

It seems like a lot of people in the EU think everyone coming over is a terrorist and that we should leave them to die.

I wish I could take every one of these politicians out on a trip to see these people and hear their stories about how they have been raped and tortured and kept as slaves, and how they are fleeing everything around them.

Building walls so you don’t see the suffering doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

More than 1m people arrived in Europe last year, and 2016 is on track to break that record.

More: This video shows you what it's like to be a refugee through your phone

More: On World Refugee Day, the chart that shows just how bad the global refugee crisis has become

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