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While the deaths of at least 27 migrants in the English Channel have shocked both Britain and France, shipwrecks of this magnitude are not uncommon in European waters.

UN officials estimate as many as 1,600 people have died or are missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year alone.

On the other hand, only 35 migrants have died or are missing in the Channel since the start of 2021.

This year, the busiest and deadliest migration route to Europe is the central Mediterranean, where people travel in crowded boats from North Africa.

The road has become the main gateway to Europe for migrants trying to enter the continent with the help of smugglers.

On Thursday, the Italian coastguard announced that it had rescued nearly 300 migrants off Lampedusa.

Authorities said the overcrowded boat had encountered problems in difficult sea conditions and some people had already fallen into the water. Eight children were among the 296 people rescued, the coast guard said.

The death toll in the Mediterranean this year is higher than in 2020 but by no means unique.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 23,000 people have died since 2014 as they tried to reach Europe from North Africa, including more than 5,000 in 2016 alone.

During the same seven-year period, around 166 people died in La Mancha.

Just last week, 85 people died in two separate incidents as they tried to reach Italy from Libya, IOM spokesman in Italy Flavio di Giacomo said.

“I think the media attention to what has happened between the UK and France is also due to the fact that it is new,” said di Giacomo.

“Europe is not used to [this] within the continent, generally, it is at the external borders, ”he added.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, around 60,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea this year.

Meanwhile, around 1,200 people died or went missing on the trip, in part based on information from shipwreck survivors.

Migrant smuggling has also increased on the even more dangerous route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Spanish Canary Islands.

IOM has recorded 900 road fatalities in the Canaries this year, di Giacomo said, but the actual number could be double “and no one is paying much attention”.

More than 400 people were rescued this week as they tried to reach the island cluster.

Human rights groups often criticize European governments for failing to do more to rescue migrants trying to reach the continent aboard battered ships.

In recent years, Europe has placed more emphasis on training and equipping the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant boats before they can reach European waters.

But critics say Europe is turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Libyan migrant detention centers.

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euronews Gt

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