December 23, 2016 / 10:38 AM / 3 years ago

Mediterranean death toll is record 5,000 migrants this year - agencies

Migrants, who were part of a group intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast in the Mediterranean sea, are led by police officers after arriving on a rescue boat at a port in Malaga, southern Spain, December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

GENEVA (Reuters) - A record 5,000 migrants are now believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year, following two shipwrecks on Thursday in which some 100 are feared dead, aid agencies said on Friday.

Two overcrowded dinghies capsized in the Strait of Sicily between Italy and Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

“Those two incidents together appear to be the numbers that would bring this year’s total to 5,000 (deaths), which is a new high in this crisis,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a Geneva briefing. “This is the worst annual death toll ever seen,” said UNHCR spokesman William Spindler.

Some 3,777 migrants perished at sea during all of 2015, the IOM said.

The UNHCR appealed to states to open up more legal pathways for admitting refugees.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams

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