More than 4,700 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year

The number of people missing and dead is up by over 1,000

More than 4,700 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year

LÉ James Joyce rescues 423 migrants off Tripoli in September 2016 | Image: Flickr/Irish Defence Forces

New figures show over 1,000 more people lost their lives in 2016 crossing the Mediterranean than in 2015.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland say developing a safe and legal passage for those making the journey, and ensuring safe resettlement, must be a priority for Irish political leaders in 2017.

Recently released figures reveal the number of people missing and dead in the Mediterranean stands at 4,742 compared with 2015's death toll of 3,665.

This represents nearly a 50% increase in deaths since 2014 - and makes the Mediterranean crossing the deadliest sea route for migrants in the world.

Brian Killoran, Immigrant Council CEO, says: "If an improvement of the response to the crisis is measured in terms of a reduction of a loss of life of men, women and children in the Mediterranean, then it's clear that such 'push back' measures as the EU-Turkey deal have been a failure.

354,804 entered Europe by sea

"Our European leaders have a pressing responsibility to develop safe and legal routes into the continent to curb this increasing list of fatalities.

"Until we provide safe passage to those making this journey, men, women and children will continue to lose their lives."

The Immigrant Council is calling on the Irish public to demand that the Irish and EU member state governments formulate a sustainable, human-rights-based response.

Mr Killoran added: "A total of 354,804 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 during 2016... arriving mostly in Greece and Italy.

"We have seen first-hand the makeshift camps in France and Greece and the desperate circumstances in which thousands of migrants are living, often having fled persecution, war and destruction.

"The families living here could be our brothers, sisters, friends or cousins. We have a moral duty to provide safe passage and sanctuary."

The group also say they welcome Minister Katherine Zappone's recent commitments to provide refugee children with a special designation.

This is to ensure their arrival complies with international regulations.