Europe

EU: Migrant deaths in central Mediterranean rise despite aid

  • FILE- In this  Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 file photo, migrants and refugees wait to be helped by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, as they crowd aboard a rubber boat sailing out of control in the Mediterranean Sea about 21 miles north of Sabratha, Libya. The chief of the European border and coast guard agency says migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

    FILE- In this Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 file photo, migrants and refugees wait to be helped by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, as they crowd aboard a rubber boat sailing out of control in the Mediterranean Sea about 21 miles north of Sabratha, Libya. The chief of the European border and coast guard agency says migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE- In this Monday, July 11, 2016 file photo, Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Europe's border control agency, Frontex, addresses the media on the current migratory situation and the new regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, at Frontex offices in Brussels, Belgium. Leggeri said Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

    FILE- In this Monday, July 11, 2016 file photo, Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Europe's border control agency, Frontex, addresses the media on the current migratory situation and the new regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, at Frontex offices in Brussels, Belgium. Leggeri said Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE- In this Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 file photo, migrants and refugees wave for help from inside a wooden boat 21 miles north of Sabratha, Libya. The chief of the European border and coast guard agency says migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

    FILE- In this Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 file photo, migrants and refugees wave for help from inside a wooden boat 21 miles north of Sabratha, Libya. The chief of the European border and coast guard agency says migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)  (The Associated Press)

The chief of the European border and coast guard agency says migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route have increased to a record level despite ever more rescue vessels trying to prevent mass drownings.

Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said Wednesday "we face a kind of sad paradox" that as the international community increases efforts to send more rescue ships close to Libya, smuggling rings pack ever more people onto unseaworthy boats and push them out toward the open sea.

He said the recorded number of migrant drowning deaths in 2016 — 4,579 — might be much less than the true loss of life. He says this "is tragic and the reasons are well known: the number of migrants now (arriving) on very small dinghies."