Africa: Over 1,000 Migrants Died On Sea to Europe in 2019 - IOM

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7 January 2020

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said 1,283 individuals died trying to migrate to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea in 2019.

In a report released on Tuesday, the IOM said: "Deaths recorded on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes through 2019 are at 1,283 individuals--or about 44% of the 2,299 deaths confirmed during the same period in 2018. The Mediterranean has claimed the lives of at least 19,164 migrants since 2014."

2019 is the sixth year of IOM's efforts to systematically record deaths on migration routes worldwide through its Missing Migrants Project. Since the beginning of 2014, the project has recorded the deaths of 34,532 people, including 3,368 in 2019.

As has been the case since 2014, the Mediterranean's central route between North Africa and Italy remains the region's deadliest corridor, IOM said.

Missing Migrants researchers estimate one in 33 people died attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean in 2019, compared to one in 35 in 2018 and one in 51 in 2017.

Though the number of deaths recorded fell from 2,299 in 2018 to 2,183 in 2019, these figures do not include a rising number of shipwrecks still yet to be confirmed, according to data collected by IOM's Missing Migrants Project, based at IOM's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin, Germany.

That is, this year's figures do not fully reflect the several ghost boats which went missing in the Mediterranean in 2019, totaling at least 413 people lost at sea whose deaths may never be fully verified. In these cases of ghost boats, no migrants were rescued at sea around the time of the distress calls.

So, while the number of migrant deaths recorded in the Mediterranean is down in 2019 compared to previous years, IOM records indicate that hundreds of lives were lost without a trace this year.

"These 'ghost boats' - vessels reported missing en route to Europe for which no hard evidence can be found - have become increasingly frequent since the search and rescue presence of European and non-governmental actors fell in mid-2017," the report noted.

"The remains of those lost at sea this year may never be found, like thousands of others lost in the Mediterranean. Each year that these deaths continue means more families live in limbo, not knowing whether a relative is dead or alive," said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM's GMDAC. "If you come from a high-income country, efforts will be made to find and identify your body should you go missing. The same simply does not apply if you are an undocumented migrant."

Meanwhile, IOM said 110,669 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea during the year just ended, marking the sixth straight year that at least 100,000 arrivals were recorded on three Mediterranean Sea Routes.

The total is only slightly below the 116,273 men, women and children who crossed the Mediterranean in this fashion in 2018, a decline of about five per cent.

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