By Fatih Erel
GENEVA (AA) – Mediterranean arrivals in Europe this year so far top 200,000, as the death toll from refugee sea journeys nears 3,000 and African refugees are traveling via Italy in the wake of the EU-Turkey deal, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.
"Deaths so far this year are 2,809, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015," IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a press conference in Geneva.
According to the group, 376 refugees died in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece this year so far, and 2,427 refugees died while trying to reach Italy from North Africa, particularly from Libya.
Some 206,400 refugees arrived in Europe this year so far, with 156,782 of them reaching Greece from Turkey and 48,527 of them arriving in Italy, the IOM noted.
Following the EU-Turkey deal on refugees reached this March, African refugees largely shifted to the Italy route, the deadliest in the Mediterranean.
The EU-Turkey deal aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean by taking stricter measures against human smugglers and improving the conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
It also stipulated the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara met 72 requirements set by the EU.