Slightly fewer than half as many migrants reached Europe by sea in 2017 than 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday, with curbs finally cutting traffic on the deadly route from Libya to Italy, Reuters reports.
Two years after more than a million people entered the EU, mostly fleeing war in the Middle East and poverty in Africa, the IOM recorded 171,635 arrivals by boat in 2017. The 2016 figure was 363,504.
The biggest influx of refugees and migrants in Europe since World War Two caused a political and humanitarian crisis two years ago.
Arrivals by boat in Italy accounted for most of the 2017 arrivals: 119,310 in total, down by a third compared to the previous year, the Italian Interior Ministry said on Dec 31.
Some 21,663 migrants arrived in Spain as of Dec. 28 last year, while 1,067 landed in Cyprus, preliminary figures show.
More patrols and rescues off the coast of Libya, as well as fighting between smuggling groups, contributed to the overall drop, Millman said.
The number of migrant deaths at sea has not been finalised, but stands at 3,116, compared to 5,143 recorded in 2016, Millman said.
African migrants in Libya continue to depart for Europe from the coast, where the IOM is monitoring rescues, he said, adding: “Boats are still rescuing in the hundreds every day, depending on the day, sub-Saharan Africans who have come through Libya.”
Nearly 20,000 Africans went home last year under IOM’s voluntary repatriation program from Libya, including 7,000 since an African Union - European Union agreement reached in Abidjan on Nov. 29, Millman said.
The United Nations agency aims to repatriate a further 15,000 migrants from Libya by the end of January, he told Reuters.