This undated photo provided by The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), shows a survivor of this week's deadly migrant boat disaster, near Zawiya, Libya. The 31-year-old Gambian migrant said over 100 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast when their boat lost its engine shortly after starting their perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. The migrant told told The Red Crescent's branch in Zawiya, where 74 bodies washed ashore on Monday, that the boat was packed with 133 people, only 24 of whom survived.
By Alexandra Zavis / Los Angeles Times
A sharp increase last year in migrant deaths shows the increasing danger of journeys undertaken by those fleeing poverty and violence around the world.
The International Organization for Migration documented 7,763 deaths in 2016, 27 percent more than in the previous year, according to a report it released Friday.
Most of the increase occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, despite the growing number of search and rescue operations deployed by governments and aid groups to help migrants when their rickety boats run into trouble on the dangerous crossing to Europe.
There were also significant increases in the number of migrant deaths in Africa and the Americas. Deaths dropped precipitously in Southeast Asia as the number of people using sea routes from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand and Malaysia fell.
“I think we are still quite shocked by the figures,” said Frank Laczko, who directs the migration agency’s Global Migration Data Analysis Center, which produced the report.
“There has been so much attention in the media and in policy circles given to the rising number of deaths,” he said. “But despite all of that, we still see the number of deaths, particularly in the Mediterranean, rising quite significantly last year.”
With heightened attention has come better monitoring and reporting, which could account for some of the increase, Mr. Laczko said.
But the analysis of the evidence also suggests that smugglers are becoming increasingly cavalier about the safety of their passengers, packing migrants into less seaworthy vessels — even in winter, when the Mediterranean is its most dangerous.
The researchers drew on a variety of sources to compile the report, including local coast guards, medical examiners, humanitarian groups, interviews with survivors and media accounts.
Even so, the report said, many more deaths probably went unreported.