IOM: At least 50,000 dead or missing migrants worldwide since 2014

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported at least 50,000 deaths recorded on the various migration routes around the world since 2014.

More than half of these deaths (29,000) occurred on the routes to and within Europe, including 25,000 for the Mediterranean Sea alone, added the UN agency, noting that while this figure “is emblematic of the persistent migration crisis globally, these deaths are only a fraction of the true total.”

“Of the 51,194 people registered in the Missing Migrants Project database since 2014, more than 30,000 people are listed with an unknown, unspecified or presumed nationality”, underlined the IOM. This means that more than 60% of the people who die on the migration routes are still not identified.

Among those whose country of origin was identified, more than 9,000 were from African countries, 6,500 from Asian countries and more than 3,000 from American countries.

On data compiled on November 15, 2022, the top ten known countries of origin are: Afghanistan (1,795), Myanmar (1,467), Syria (1,118), Ethiopia (867), Mexico (755), Morocco (702), Algeria (653), Venezuela (494), Guatemala (463) and Haiti (451).

Europe, the deadliest known migration destination

More than 8,700 people have died or gone missing on unidentified migration routes since 2014. According to IOM, this indicates that more resources are needed to track migrant deaths on all routes.

In this regard, IOM explains that “it is particularly important to target areas that lack resources, as deaths are less likely to be documented in areas where the risks of migration are less known”.

More than half of deaths documented during migration since 2014 have occurred in Europe or en route to Europe, with 29,126 deaths or disappearances recorded in Europe and at its external borders on the Mediterranean and European sea routes. ‘Atlantic. This also includes deaths recorded at land borders such as the border between Greece and Turkey.

This figure makes Europe the deadliest known migration destination. Among the dead and missing for which the IOM has information, at least 1,000 children, more than 2,500 women and more than 3,700 men have died trying to reach Europe.

Many deaths on the West Africa-Atlantic Ocean route

European routes have the highest number and proportion of people whose bodies have not been recovered, with at least 16,000 people missing and presumed dead at sea on routes to and within Europe. In fact, this means that at least one in two people lost on Europe’s migration routes have not been found and have not been identified.

While the more than 25,000 deaths documented on Mediterranean crossings remain the deadliest known routes of any year, the increase in recent years is largely due to the many fatalities on the West Africa- Atlantic. According to the IOM, this sea crossing is used mainly by West and North Africans trying to reach the Canary Islands in Spain.

Nearly 1,600 deaths have been documented since 2021 on this road, more than half of the total of 2,900 deaths recorded.

According to the UN agency based in Geneva, on all sea routes to Europe, the +Invisible shipwrecks+ – in which no search and rescue is carried out and no remains are ever found – are incredibly difficult to verify and as a result the number of deaths on these routes is almost certainly understated“.

Crossing the Sahara desert, the deadliest road in Africa

Deaths at the land borders of Europe are less publicized but nevertheless represent more than 1,000 lives lost. Lives lost crossing borders into the European Union account for more than half (534) of this total, including 280 in the Western Balkans and 254 at the land border between Greece and Turkey.

The IOM report also shows that more than 9,000 deaths have been recorded in Africa, making it the second deadliest known region for people on the move. Migrations across Africa are highly disparate, as are the sources of information on deaths during migration, meaning the death toll is most likely underestimated.

For example, a household survey conducted by Ethiopia’s Central Statistical Agency in 2021 estimated that more than 51,000 Ethiopian nationals are missing migrants, of whom 16.5% – or about 8,430 people – were known by their families to be dead.

The deadliest known route in Africa is through the Sahara Desert, with more than 5,600 known lives since 2014, although other reports point to many more disappearances than currently recorded. For example, several studies indicate that people transiting through the Sahara Desert often fall out of the back of overloaded trucks – or are even thrown for fear of spreading disease – and are left in extremely remote areas.

Americas: The majority of deaths occur on the roads to the USA

Despite this, only 148 people who are missing and presumed dead during the trans-Saharan migration have been confirmed since 2014, by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project.

Across the Americas, more than 6,900 deaths during migration have been documented since 2014. At least 4,694 lives have been lost on the roads to the United States since 2014, including deaths at the northernmost border of Mexico and those who died or went missing on the Caribbean shipping routes to United States territories.

Crossing the land border between the United States and Mexico was the site of more than 4,100 deaths in total, including at least 114 children, 360 women and 2,349 men.

Despite the increasing loss of life, little action has been taken by governments of countries of origin, transit and destination to address the current global crisis of missing migrants.

For Julia Black, co-author of the report, “While thousands of deaths have been documented each year on the migration routes, very little has been done to deal with the consequences of these tragedies, let alone to prevent them.”

The plight of Rohingya refugees

In Asia, more than 6,200 deaths during migration have been documented there, particularly in West Asia. Southeast Asia has the highest number of documented migration deaths of any sub-region in Asia, with more than 3,000 recorded, of which 1,359 were Rohingya departing from Myanmar.

In West Asia, at least 1,315 lives have been lost on migration routes since 2014, many of them in countries where violent conflict is ongoing. For example, since 2014, at least 522 people arriving from the Horn of Africa have died in Yemeni territory and at least 264 Syrians have died trying to cross the border with Türkiye.

More than 11% of lives lost on migration routes in Asia are children, the highest proportion of any region. Of the 717 child deaths recorded during migration in the region, more than half (436) are Rohingya refugees.

Priority to search and rescue operations at sea

Faced with these alarming data, the IOM notes that the obligations arising from international law, including the right to life, must be respected at all times. A way to remind the international community to “work together to prevent and reduce the number of additional deaths”.

This means prioritizing search and rescue operations, but also improving and expanding regular and safe migration routes. For IOM, it is also necessary to ensure that migration governance prioritizes the protection and security of people on the move.

Julia Black believes in this regard that “whatever the reasons that compel or push people to move, no one deserves to die in search of a better life”.

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