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U.N.: 5,000 migrants died crossing Mediterranean Sea in 2016

By
Daniel Uria
UNHCR Spokesman William Spindler called for more pathways for admission of refugees after 5,000 migrants died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. About 100 people died as two separate boats sank of the coast of Italy on Thursday contributing to the worst annual death toll ever.
 Screen capture/UN News Centre/YouTube
UNHCR Spokesman William Spindler called for more pathways for admission of refugees after 5,000 migrants died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. About 100 people died as two separate boats sank of the coast of Italy on Thursday contributing to "the worst annual death toll ever." Screen capture/UN News Centre/YouTube

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The United Nations announced "the worst annual death toll ever seen" for people attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

A total of 5,000 people were killed attempting to make the trip in 2016 after reports that about 100 people died when two boats between Libya and Sicily on Thursday.

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"Only 63 people survived after the dinghy collapsed and passengers fell into the water. The second dinghy was carrying about 120 people and 80 were rescued by the coast guard," Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman William Spindler said.

UNHCR data shows that this year an average of 14 people died every day in the Mediterranean Sea with the total death toll up from 3,771 in 2015.

"This is the worst annual death toll ever seen," he said.

Spindler said declining quality of vessels used by migrants, harsh weather conditions and tactics used by smugglers to avoid detection contributed to the high death toll.

"These include sending large numbers of embarkations simultaneously, which makes the work of rescuers more difficult," he said.

He called for an increase in pathways for admission of refugees including resettlement, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes to prevent the dangerous journeys.

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