05:17, 26 June 2017
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More than 5,000 migrants to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016

More than 5,000 migrants are thought to have drowned

in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, a record figure described as “a devastating milestone” by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). On Thursday alone, some 100 mainly West Africans were feared to have perished making the treacherous crossing to Europe. To save lives, the UNHCR says legal entry for those seeking safety is desperately needed. “This situation highlights the urgent need for states to increase pathways for admission of refugees, such as resettlement, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes, among others, so they do not have to resort to dangerous journeys and the use of smugglers,” said UNHCRspokesman William Spindler. Just under 3,800 migrants perished at sea during all of 2015, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The UN says smugglers are now sending large numbers of migrants to Europe simultaneously, making the work of rescuers more difficult. Bad weather and ever flimsier vessels are also blamed for an average of 14 migrant deaths a day in the Mediterranean in 2016, among those risking everything.