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At least 2,812 migrants died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, a leading international agency announced Tuesday, as news emerged that a further 22 have drowned trying to sail from Turkey to Greece.
A total of 211 immigrants were rescued in the Aegean Sea Tuesday, according to the Turkish coastguard. The boat went down about 1.5 miles off the resort town of Bodrum, where the drowned body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washed up two weeks ago, giving rise to a tragic image that shocked people around the world.
"Reality has overrun our predictions; needs are exceeding the available capacity,” said Daniel Esdras, chief of the International Migration Organization (IOM) in Greece. “The desperation of these people leads them to take fatal risks, and the organized crime of smugglers is expanding every day. There is no time left."
In 2014, some 2,993 migrants died trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to IOM. Around 20,000 migrants were registered in the Greek islands this past weekend alone, IOM officials estimated.
These unprecedented figures highlight the scale of the challenge faced by European leaders who have so far struggled to stem the flow of asylum seekers crossing their borders.
The IOM said that, to date, more than 460,000 migrants and refugees have successfully reached Europe after fleeing conflict and insecurity in countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. More than 175,000 Syrians and 50,000 Afghans have reached Greece and 30,000 Eritreans have reached Italy so far this year.
European Union member states remain bitterly divided over how many migrants and refugees to accept and how to distribute them.
Nearly 4,000 people have died in migration world wide, including 460 in the Bay of Bengal and 133 at the border between the United States and Mexico.
The IOM’s figures on migrant deaths represent only those that have been officially documented. The real numbers — though unknown — are thought to be significantly higher.