Half as many migrants landed in Europe in 2017 as 2016: IOM

A migrant waits on the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, after it arrived in Pozzallo on the island of Sicily, Italy, December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

A migrant waits on the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, after it arrived in Pozzallo on the island of SicilyThomson Reuters

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Slightly fewer than half as many migrants reached Europe by sea in 2017 than 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday, with curbs finally cutting traffic on the deadly route from Libya to Italy.

Two years after more than a million people entered the EU, mostly fleeing war in the Middle East and poverty in Africa, the IOM recorded 171,635 arrivals by boat in 2017. The 2016 figure was 363,504.

The biggest influx of refugees and migrants in Europe since World War Two caused a political and humanitarian crisis two years ago.

Since then, the main Eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey and Greece has largely been shut by a deal between the EU and Ankara.

Reducing traffic has been slower on the other main route, across the central Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy, where thousands of people have died at sea. But numbers finally started coming down sharply in the second half of last year.

Arrivals by boat in Italy accounted for most of the 2017 arrivals: 119,310 in total, down by a third compared to the previous year, the Italian Interior Ministry said on Dec 31.

"We can tell you with confidence that the numbers from North Africa to Italy thi....

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