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3,000-plus refugees died trying to reach Europe in 2016: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People stand in front of graffiti depicting Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi, who drowned while trying to reach Europe with his family, at the harbor in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, July 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 3,000 refugees have died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea so far in 2016.

“The latest discovery of 39 bodies washed up on Libyan shores this week brings the number of casualties to over 3,034 among the migrants and refugees who attempted to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2016,” the IOM said on Tuesday.

The body said that 250,000 refugees had made the journey.

The IOM, meanwhile, said this year’s death toll was “significantly higher compared to last year as of end of July 2015, when 1,917 had lost their lives at sea.”

Separately, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that more than 10,000 Europe-bound refugees, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since 2014.

Late last year, the UNHCR had said at least 1.4 million refugees would be in Europe by the end of 2016.

Risking life and limb, around 1.2 million asylum seekers reached the continent in 2015, mostly fleeing conflict and insufferable living conditions in the Middle East.

Many blame support by some Western countries for the militants operating in the Middle East for increased violence, which in turn forces the departure of more people from their home countries.

Struggling to curb the crisis, Europe’s worst since World War II, the European Union struck a deal with Turkey back in March. Under the agreement, Turkey agreed to take back all the asylum seekers and refugees reaching Europe via its territory in return for financial aid, visa liberalization and the acceleration of EU membership negotiations.

Observers say that in striking the accord, the EU violated its own laws as the bloc is not entitled to redirect refugees to a non-EU country like Turkey.

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