Home / MIGRATION / Mediterranean is “by far world’s deadliest border” for migrants, says UN
The remains of drowned migrants being recovered on the coast of the western Libyan town of Zawiya, February 2017. So far in 2017, approximately 3,000 have died or disappeared while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe / Photo: © Libyan Red Crescent

Mediterranean is “by far world’s deadliest border” for migrants, says UN

A new study released by the International Migration Organization has described the Mediterranean as the world’s deadliest border, revealing that more than 33,700 migrants have died or gone missing in the sea since 2000.

The International Organization for Migration has released a report in which it concludes that Europe’s Mediterranean border is “by far the world’s deadliest.”

The report, presented to the media on Friday in Geneva, by the United Nations’ migration agency states that at least 33,761 migrants have died or have gone missing in the Mediterranean between 2000 and 2017.

The study investigates irregular migration across the Mediterranean since the 1970s. It highlights that irregular arrivals to European territory and deaths at sea have increased as migration policies become more restrictive.

“Stopping migration and eradicating deaths at sea may [be] conflicting objectives. Shutting the shorter and less dangerous routes can open longer and more dangerous routes, thus increasing the likelihood of dying at sea,” Professor Philippe Fargues of the European University Institute states in the report.


The study found that the highest number of fatalities was recorded in 2016, when 5,096 migrants died in the crossing. At the time, the short and relatively less dangerous route from Turkey to Greece was shut following the European Union–Turkey statement.

So far in 2017, approximately 161,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea, while 3,000 have died or disappeared while trying.

Out of those who reached European shores through the Mediterranean this year, 75 percent arrived through Italy with the rest mainly landing in Greece, Cyprus and Spain, according to IOM figures.

Sahara desert a much bigger cemetery

In another report published by the IOM in August 2017, the agency had described the journey through the Sahara desert to the coast of North Africa as even more dangerous than crossing the Mediterranean.

While much attention is paid to migrants crossing the Mediterranean and the number of people who die in the attempt, there is another tragedy of migration that begins much earlier. Migrants traversing the Sahara get stranded in the desert because they are abandoned by smugglers and left in the excruciating heat, with little food or water.

“Smugglers are taking more risks to avoid major hubs, checkpoints and security controls,” Alberto Preato, a program director at the IOM in Niger told Reuters. “But cars break down, drivers get lost, and migrants get abandoned… the conditions are dire.” According to him, many migrants say that the “desert is a bigger cemetery than the Mediterranean Sea.”  

A recent report broadcast by CNN showing African migrants being traded in Libya sparked an international outcry and protests in Europe and Africa.

With InfoMigrant reports

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