GENEVA, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The UN migration agency IOM said Friday that the number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea during 2017 more than halved from the preceding year with the tally standing at 171,635.
IOM said that just under 70 percent of those migrants and refugees arrived in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain, the migration agency's spokesperson Joel Millman said at a regular UN briefing, noting that the statistics are still preliminary.
This compares with 363,504 arrivals across the region through the same period last year.
"IOM's Missing Migrants Project reported 3,116 deaths in the Mediterranean during 2017, not including at least two deaths recorded in late December, when one body was recovered on the coast of Libya and an 18-month-old child reportedly drowned off Turkey," said Millman.
For 2016, the migration agency had recorded 5,143 during Mediterranean crossings into Europe.
IOM Rome had reported on Thursday that, according to Ministry of Interior figures, 119,310 men, women and children arrived by sea as irregular migrants to Italy last year, the lowest total in four years, or since the Mediterranean migrant emergency began, said Millman.
IOM has been compiling arrival data across the Mediterranean since 2014.
Millman cited IOM Athens as reporting Thursday that over the last 12 days of 2017, the Hellenic Coast Guard reported at least 10 incidents requiring search and rescue operations off the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Rhodes.
Greece's Coast Guard rescued a combined 320 migrants and transferred them to these respective islands.
A total of 795 irregular migrants entered Greece by sea during this same period, although on three of those days no migrants were detected entering.
The busiest day of the period was New Year's Eve, the last day of 2017, when 217 migrants came ashore on Samos and Lesvos. Christmas Eve was also busy; 177 migrants came ashore at Lesvos on December 24, the second busiest day of the period.
Overall, 2,574 migrants entered Greece by sea during December, bringing the 2017 total on the Eastern Mediterranean route to 29,595.
As with the Central Mediterranean route to Italy, this was the lowest total IOM has recorded in four years.