UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- An estimated 366 migrants died at sea during their Mediterranean journey to Europe in the first 53 days of 2017, down from 425 of the comparable period of last year, the United Nations migration agency said Friday.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 13,924 migrants entered Europe by sea this year through Feb. 22, sharply down from 105,427 a year earlier.
These data include the death toll reported this week from a boat with as many as 133 passengers on board that foundered off Az Zawiyah, near Tripoli, the Libyan capital, last Sunday.
According to an IOM source at the scene, the human smugglers stole the craft's engine and left the vessel drifting, telling passengers that authorities were en route to rescue them.
"This is becoming a common tactic," said IOM Rome spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo. "But when you take an engine from a boat like this, you can no longer treat it as an 'incident'. It is homicide," Giacomo said.
This year so far, Italy accounted for 10,701 arrivals, Greece 2,223 and Spain 1,000. In the comparable period last year, Greece recorded 97,325 arrivals and Italy 8,102.