A Deadly Year At Sea

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The surge of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe by boat has slowed, but fatalities rose in 2016 as thousands crammed into dinghies to make the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean.

It was the deadliest year on record on the Mediterranean Sea as refugees and migrants from Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries attempted to reach Italy and Greece. Although fewer people attempted the dangerous voyage in 2016, more died in crossing than in previous years. Hundreds drowned in November alone.

347,729 refugees arrived in Italy or Greece by sea in 2016, according to the UNHRC
1,015,078 refugees who arrived in 2015

4,690 dead or missing refugees in 2016
3,771 dead or missing refugees in 2015


Migrants try to pull a child out of the Mediterranean sea as they wait to be rescued in October.

Arrivals to Italy have stayed about the same from 2015 to 2016, but officials find that more people are staying to start new lives in the country. Asylum claims have nearly doubled there, and more than 158,000 people are now in Italian reception facilities. The number of arrivals to Greece, however, has dropped by more than half after a March deal between the European Union and Turkey, which allows Greece to send migrants back to Turkey.

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Refugees are escorted to the Topaz Responder in a wooden boat as members of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) make rescues at sea on Nov. 22, 2016, in Pozzollo, Italy. The MOAS team worked through the night and into the next morning rescuing around 600 people; they have rescued 19,000 refugees this year.

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About 120 people were on board this boat in distress, located by a search-and-rescue operation about 23 miles northeast of Tripoli, Libya, in September.

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Thousands of discarded life vests are dumped in the hills above Mithymna, Greece, in March.

The International Monetary Fund predicts 1.3 million migrants could find their way to Europe by 2017, putting considerable strain on those countries. And although the EU agreed to relocate some 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, fewer than 3 percent have actually made it through the process. The UN Refugee Agency is calling for more effective strategies to increase options for refugees, including private sponsorships, family reunification and student scholarships.

2016 in numbers