The year 2018 saw a new record in Spain for migrant arrivals by sea, at more than 57,000 – representing around half of all undocumented migrants making the Mediterranean crossing last year. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 113,145 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea last year.
According to UNHCR, a total of 119,575 refugees and migrants arrived via both land and sea routes in Europe during 2018. The country that recorded the highest number of arrivals last year was also Spain with 62,479 (over 50 percent). This was a significant spike in arrivals in Spain which stood at 28,349 in 2017 (roughly 17 percent of arrivals to Europe via land and sea routes overall) and 14,603 in 2016 (roughly 4 percent of arrivals overall).
Roughly 21 percent of the refugees and migrants who arrived in Spain during 2018 were from Morocco. Migrants from Guinea were 20.8 percent of the total arrivals while Malians were the third biggest group. The vast majority, 77.5 percent of the refugees and migrants who reached Spanish shores were men. Women were 10.9 percent and children 11.7 percent of the total.
Nearly 750 died trying to reach Spain
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) documented the deaths of 744 people in the waters between North Africa and Spain in 2018, compared to the 224 deaths recorded along that route in 2017. MMP said there has been a consistent increase in the number of migrant deaths recorded in the Western Mediterranean each year since IOM began keeping track.
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MMP also reported that 2,217 people died last year in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean, which continues to account for the majority of deaths during migration recorded globally.
Why migrants increasingly head to Spain
According to observers, the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Spain increased significantly as a result of stricter border controls and policies being pursued in other European countries. The year 2017 ended with Italy being the biggest recipient of migrants. Since then, controversial deals with Libya to curb the migrant flow, followed by stringent policies by the centre-right coalition in Rome, have lead to arrivals dropping significantly via the central Mediterranean route. Thus in 2018, the western Mediterranean route to Spain became the most preferred one.
Sola Jolaoso with additional information from InfoMigrants