Mediterranean deaths reach record 5,000 as smugglers adjust tactics
According to Rapporteur Report From , Independent , Link , Last year, 3,771 people seeking refugee protection or better lives died as they tried to reach southern Europe by sea, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Bad weather was only one of the factors that increased the number of fatalities this year.
Smugglers have also been seeking new ways to escape coastguards.
"These include sending large numbers of embarkations simultaneously, which makes the work of rescuers more difficult," UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said at a press conference.
In addition, the quality of the boats that are used to cross the sea has fallen, he added.
Around 100 people are feared to have drowned Thursday when two rubber boats collapsed in two separate incidents in the Channel of Sicily, according to the Italian coastguard.
"It's rough sea and winter weather. So when [a boat] capsizes, there is not much time to survive," said John Millman, spokesman of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The first dinghy carried up to 140 people including many women and children. Only 63 survived.
The second one had about 120 passengers, of which 80 were rescued and brought to the western Sicilian town of Trapani by the coastguard.
Most of the passengers on both boats were from West Africa, IOM reported.
According to this UN aid and advocacy organization, 358,000 migrants have entered Europe by sea so far this year, mostly through Italy and Greece.
Nigeria, Guinea, Eritrea, Ivory Coast and Gambia were the main countries of origin of arrivals in Italy.
"Many people have told us that they didn't want to come to Europe when they left their country of origin. For many of them the destination country was Libya," IOM's Rome spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said.
However, migrants in Libya are being targeted by criminals, militias and officials for slave labour, extortion, rape and other crimes, according to a recent UN report.
"We are seeing more migrants crossing this winter. This trend confirms the fact that conditions in Libya are becoming increasingly dangerous for migrants," Di Giacomo said.
In Greece, the main groups of arrivals were from Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.