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Mediterranean migrant numbers hit deadly milestone

More than 2,000 people are estimated have died so far this year trying to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that about 188,000 people have been rescued so far this year while trying to make their way to the old continent through the world's most dangerous migrant route.

The IOM says the 200,000-mark could be crossed by the end of the week.

"Unfortunately, we have now reached a milestone whereby over 2,000 migrants and refugees have died as of this past weekend," Itayi Virri, IOM spokesperson, said in Geneva on Tuesday.

IOM said the latest toll confirms "this route as the deadliest for migrants in search of a better life", and gave warning that the situation was worsening.

During the same period last year, 1,607 migrants had perished trying to make the journey, with 3,279 dying in all of 2014.

Nearly all of the people flooding across the Mediterranean so far this year, often in rickety boats and at the mercy of human traffickers, have landed in Italy (97,000) and Greece (90,500), the IOM said.

Just over 1,930 people died trying to cross from Libya to Italy so far this year, while about 60 had died trying to reach Greece.

The IOM said that traffickers taking people to Italy tended to use vessels with worse conditions, leading to the higher death toll.

Tragic milestone

While lamenting the tragic milestone of more than 2,000 deaths, Virri said increased EU efforts since April to rescue migrants at sea meant "a lot of people have been saved who otherwise would have lost their lives".

Nineteen people had lost their lives in the Channel of Sicily last week alone, with the bodies of 14 migrants brought to the Sicilian port of Messina on July 29.

They had been travelling with 456 others who were rescued.

And on Monday, 550 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend arrived in Sicily aboard a ship operated by Doctors Without Borders, which also carried the bodies of five people who died at sea.