1,931 immigrants died in the Mediterranean during the first seven months of 2011, and 1,674 of them (87%) died in the Sicilian Channel, according to Fortress Europe, the Italy-based organisation which monitors migration.

The estimate, issued today, came as the Italian island of Lampedusa struggles with an influx of 2,000 immigrants who arrived over the weekend.  The transfer of hundreds of the migrants from Lampedusa to the Italian mainland started late yesterday. Malta also refused to take 300 migrants which were picked up by an Italian warship near Lampedusa. They were taken to Taranto instead.

Fortress Europe said that about 25,000 people have arrived in Italy from Tunisia and an equal number from Libya this year.

The group said that according to official data, of the 1,674 immigrants who lost their lives trying to reach Italy, 188 drowned on the Tunisian route and 1,486 after escaping Libya one in 17.

Last year the number of immigrants who drowned in the Sicilian Channel was just 20. In 2009, there were 425 dead immigrants. Since 1994, 5.962 immigrants have lost their lives in the Sicilian Channel. 

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