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IOM: Migrant Deaths at Sea Increasing at Alarming Rate


People check bodies of migrants that were drowned as they were trying to reach Greece, at a port near Izmir, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2016.

People check bodies of migrants that were drowned as they were trying to reach Greece, at a port near Izmir, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2016.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday that deaths of refugees and migrants crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece were "increasing at an alarming rate."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, IOM spokesman Joel Millman said 218 people died in January on that eastern Mediterranean route. "What Is important to mention is that the deaths on this route are increasing at an alarming rate," he said.

"Just looking at my notes from the last three briefings, two weeks ago we reported 50 had died on this route; a week later 95, a few days after that almost 160, so it's doubling almost every time I come here, and as of today, 218," he said. "As point reference, there weren't this many deaths on the Aegean side of the Mediterranean last year until the middle of September."

Friday morning alone, six bodies were found on a boat that had been rescued at sea, Millman said.

The statement came following two fatal shipwrecks earlier this week off the Greek islands of Kos and Samos, where more than 30 people died, including 15 children, according to the IOM.

The IOM estimates 26 more people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea on the traditionally more deadly route between Libya and Italy, raising the total number of deaths to 244 for January.

IOM also estimates that during the first 28 days of 2016 more than 55,500 migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean to enter Europe.

Meanwhile, the European destination countries are under increased pressure to deal with the high rate of asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees. Tensions among the local population have been on the rise.

Unknown assailants threw a hand grenade at a shelter for asylum seekers in southern Germany Friday, but the device did not explode and no one was injured, police said. That was the 10th case reported in January.

The Federal Crime Office reported Thursday that 173 similar attacks were carried out against refugee shelters in 2015, more than six times the number recorded in 2014.

More than one million people from war-torn and poverty-ridden countries of the Middle East, Africa and Asia flooded into Europe last year, making it the continent's worst migration crisis since World War II. Germany sheltered most of them.

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