Number Of Migrants Fleeing To Europe By Boat Is Up 47 Percent

And so far this year, about 400 more people have died trying to make the trip compared with last year

Aug 28, 2015 at 12:37 PM ET

There’s been a huge spike in the number of people fleeing Africa and the Middle East to build new lives in Europe–and in the number of people who never make it.

In the latest incident, up to 200 people are feared to have died after an Italy-bound boat packed with mainly African migrants sank off the Libyan coast Thursday. The passengers had been from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh, a security official told Reuters.

An estimated 322,914 people trying to escape by sea the wars by and turbulence of the Middle East and Africa have made it to Europe this year, mainly to Greece and Italy. That’s 48 percent more than in 2014, when 219,000 fled, according to UNHCR. Just since the start of August, 18,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya.

However, more people are also dying along the way. An estimated 2,432 sea-borne migrants bound for Europe have died so far this year. Through this date in 2014, the number was 2,081. The migrants are overwhelmingly from Syria: About 88,000 have fled the country by boat since January 1, followed by 32,000 from Afghanistan and almost 26,000 from Eritrea.

“In the last few weeks we have seen many deaths. We think that this may be explained by the fact that the smugglers are becoming increasingly violent and cruel. Migrants are forced to stay in the hold, where they asphyxiate,” said the International Organization For Migration’s Federico Soda.