Refugees on a boat crossing the Mediterranean sea, heading from Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, 29 January 2016 | Wikimedia Commons
The number of migrants who have died at sea since early January while trying to reach Europe now exceeds 2,000 people. It is, however, significantly lower than last year the United Nations said last Friday. In total, 2,108 people died at sea, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 800 more died in 2016.
The vast majority of the victims died between Libya and Italy. In total, Italy has also hosted more migrants than last year – more than 70,000 – of the 85,000 arrived in Europe since early January. By the end of June 2016, more than 200,000 people had joined the Old Continent by sea.
As a result, to reduce the migratory flow, main roads leading to those borders, located south of the Sahara, are monitored by patrols of soldiers. In addition, police officers crisscross the streets of Agadez and stop migrants and smugglers they come across, confiscating vehicles and closing houses where smugglers gather immigrants until the day of departure.
The importance of Agadez, a large hub of networks of smugglers of West African migrants trying to reach Europe via Algeria and Libya, is not lost to European policy makers.
The agreement signed by Turkey and the EU, and the closing of borders in the Balkans, may slow down the number of arrivals in Greece through Turkey, at least for now. But, in 2016, the road to the central Mediterranean was taken by 181,000 migrants and asylum seekers who want to cross into Italy – a record figure.