For the fifth straight year, at least 1,500 migrants perished in the Mediterranean, with the route between Libya and Italy the deadliest, claiming the lives of one in 19, the UN migration agency said.
Spain, which has overtaken Italy as the preferred destination, registered nearly 21,000 migrants so far this year, almost more than the whole of last year, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
In all, about 55,000 migrants reached European shores so far this year, against more than double that number at this time last year, 111,753, it said.
Italy – whose new government closed ports to rescue vessels – had about 18,130 migrants arriving by sea from Libya this year, with the rest going to Greece, Malta and Cyprus.
“Despite incredibly low numbers arriving to Italy, the per capita death or the rate of death per 1,000 people may be at its highest point since the emergency began,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a news briefing.
The IOM and the UN refugee agency UNHCR confirmed they would host a meeting in Geneva to discuss a collective approach to disembarkation points aimed at making rescues at sea more manageable. They declined to say which government officials would attend the closed-door meeting.
Last Tuesday, the European Commission presented a proposal for “regional disembarkation platforms” that would likely be located outside the European Union to process migrants rescued at sea.
The plans remain vague and do not mention potential host countries. EU diplomats say they could be set up in North Africa.
“What we can say is first indications we are getting from Spanish authorities is the West African migrants were most prominent crossing into Libya in the past couple of years and seem to be choosing Spain as their route now,” Millman said.
The death rate on the western Mediterranean route to Spain is about one in 70 migrants.