More migrants were killed crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2016 than any record in history, according to the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the region.
The IOM, in its preliminary figures released on Friday, said at least 363,348 people crossed the sea – mostly to Italy and Greece but 5,079 additional people were either killed or are missing.
The UN migration agency explained that the figures were expected to increase with the addition of fatalities from December 2016.
“The probable addition of several hundred more fatalities recorded in 2016 only deepens the tragedy,” IOM Director-General William Swing, said.
He warned that Europe’s frustration with a seemingly endless cycle of migrant rescue followed by reports of shipwrecks and more drowning would continue unless governments throughout the region found a way to manage migration comprehensively.
Swing called for “finding creative means to permit safe, legal and secure migration” which could be done through work visas family reunification or temporary protected status.
“Instead of doubling down on tactics that don’t work, let’s use this New Year to try something that’s actually new,” he stressed.
To forestall future fatalities, IOM said that it carried out its first aid training courses in Libya on Friday with rescuers involving migrant lifesaving operation in the Mediterranean Sea.
The training, which is part of the Sea and Desert Migration Management for Libyan Authorities to Rescue Migrants, was funded by the EU, it said.