The UN refugee agency says that one out of every seven migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya in traffickers’ unseaworthy boats perished at sea in June.
The high death rate comes even as the numbers of those reaching European shores after rescue at sea have sharply dropped this year compared to previous years.
Last month, Italy and Malta intensified crackdowns on private aid group rescue boats operating off Libya by either refusing them docking permission or blocking them from leaving ports where they had docked for supplies.
Carlotta Sami, a Rome-based UNHCR spokeswoman, called June’s mortality rate “dramatic and exceptional.” She noted that in 2017 on average only one in every 38 migrants attempting the crossing died.
UN officials cited the crackdown’s effects as well as the Libyan coast guard’s struggles to conduct rescues.