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  • Migrants sit in a rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by SOS Mediterranee ship Aquarius off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in this handout received April 18, 2016.

    Migrants sit in a rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by SOS Mediterranee ship Aquarius off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa in this handout received April 18, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 January 2017

As host countries impose stricter border policies, data shows more migrants are dying, particularly in the Mediterranean.

The number of migrants dying while crossing the Mediterranean Sea hit a record high of 5,079 in 2016 — a spike from previous years' deaths, according to the latest figures from the International Organization for Migration released Friday.

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The disturbing figures show a sharp increase from the 3,777 deaths in 2015 and 3,279 deaths in 2014. While many at the IOM believe that the increase is due to migrant routes becoming more deadly in 2016, more advanced research methods used by the organization’s Missing Migrants Program is another factor leading to the spike.

The preliminary data from the Missing Migrants Program also showed a huge increase in migrant deaths across North Africa in 2016, 1,124 up from 348 deaths in 2015 and 85 in 2014.

The IOM said that despite efforts of destination countries trying to limit the number of migrant arrivals, most migrant routes in Central to North America and from the Sahara to Southern Europe appear to be operating at full capacity.

In Latin America and the U.S.-Mexico border, deaths also reached a three-year high of 705, up from 488 in 2015 and 491 in 2014. Other particularly deadly routes for migrants in 2016 included the Horn of Africa with 200 deaths and Southeast Asia with 153 deaths.

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In 2016, 363,348 migrants reached Europe, a decrease from over 1 million arrivals in 2014.

IOM general director William Lacy Swing said that over the last three years migrant deaths in the Mediterranean totaled “almost 20 deaths per day. And we don’t believe we are anywhere near counting all of the victims. We are past the time for counting. We must act to make migration legal, safe and secure for all.”

The organization also noted that migrants were almost constantly in communication with others, particularly through different forms of social media, where communication often stops once they reach points of danger, helping other to alert others including rescuers.

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