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Number of migrants who died trying to reach Europe by sea more than doubles- IOM

Funeral workers carry the body of a migrant at the beach of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on May 20, 2021.   -  
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The number of migrants who have died at sea trying to reach Europe has more than doubled this year, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday, calling on states to take urgent action.

Statistics released by the IOM in a new report, indicates that at least 1,146 people died at sea trying to reach Europe in the first half of 2021.

In 2020, 513 had died in the same period, and 674 a year earlier.

The report found that: ‘’Civilian search and rescue organizations continued to face significant obstacles’’.

The report also mentioned that majority of their vessels got stranded in European ports, largely due to administrative seizures and ongoing criminal and administrative proceedings against crew members."

The report comes at a time when interceptions of boats carrying migrants off the North African coast are on the rise.

In a statement, Director General of the IOM, Antonio Vitorino reiterated the call on states to take proactive measures at reducing the loss of life on maritime migration routes to Europe and to comply with their obligations under international law.’’

"Increasing search and rescue efforts, establishing predictable disembarkation mechanisms and ensuring access to safe and legal migration routes are key steps to achieve this goal," he added.

For years, Italy and the European Union have been funding, training and equipping the Libyan coast guard to prevent smugglers from transporting migrants and refugees to Europe in makeshift boats. In addition, an Italian navy ship anchored in Tripoli provides technical assistance to the coast guard.

However, the coast guard has faced repeated accusations of mistreatment of asylum seekers, leading many NGOs to denounce the policy. Under international maritime law, people rescued at sea should be disembarked at a safe port. And the UN does not consider Libya a safe port.