2016 is well on course to be yet another ‘deadliest year’, as arrivals to Europe slow down and deaths increase disproportionately. So far this year, 3,167 people have lost their lives  attempting to reach Europe, while in 2015 a total of 3,771 people died at sea.

The latest data released by IOM Missing Migrants Project at the end of August recorded a 67% increase in deaths in the Mediterranean during the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period of 2015. The Mediterranean continues to be the deadliest migration route worldwide, with 78% of total deaths and disappearances taking place in it.

According to IRIN News, smugglers on the Libyan coast have now dropped the prices for the boat journey, cram many more people on the same boat, and are putting out as many as 10 boats at sea at the same time. This complicates search and rescue (SAR) operations, and contributes to the higher death toll.

On August 17, a SAR vessel operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) off the coast of Libya was attacked by armed unidentified men, who shot at the boat and boarded it. The attack did not have any consequences, but it is the first of its kind and represents a worrying development.

On Monday 29 August, around 6,500 people were rescued off the Libyan coast and brought to Italy in a single day in over 40 SAR operations. On the other hand, Egypt has reported a spike in the number of people leaving for Italy through its territory, stressing that this is a consequence of the EU-Turkey deal.

ECRE renews its calls for the opening of safe and legal channels for people to reach Europe. Such channels could take the form of humanitarian visas, faster and more effective family reunification policies, and an increase in resettlement.

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This article will appear in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 2 September 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.