A rescue operation by SOS Mediterraneé off the Libyan coast, April 2017. This year has been deadly for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. At least 50 migrants are feared drowned after their boat ran out of fuel and capsized off the Libyan coast on Wednesday (20 September). A spokesman for the Libyan navy said the survivors were all from sub-Saharan Africa / Photo: SOS Mediterraneé

Mediterranean death rate goes up despite drop in migrant arrivals

The death rate among migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe almost doubled this year, although fewer migrants made the journey, according to a new report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The number of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2017 has decreased compared to the same period last year. However, the death rate has almost doubled as the region has become one of the deadliest for migrants, according to a report released by IOM.

Called “Fatal Journeys Volume 3,” the study focuses on the global situation regarding migrant fatalities, trying to look at more effective ways to tackle the lack of information on migrant deaths and those reported missing.

According to the document, since 2014, more than 22,500 migrants have died around the world, including nearly 14,500 across the Mediterranean region. As of September 18, 3,781 migrants were reported dead or missing worldwide by IOM in 2017.

“Although this figure is somewhat lower than that of 4,348 for 2016, the risk of dying has actually increased along some migratory routes”, the organization stressed, adding that despite considerable policy and media attention and increased search and rescue efforts by a range of organizations, the death toll in the Mediterranean has continued to rise.

So far, 2,556 migrants have been reported dead or missing in the region in 2017 compared to 3,602 in 2016. However, IOM noted that if the toll is compared with the number of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe in 2017, “The rate of death increased from 1.2 per cent in the first half of 2016, to 2.1 per cent in the first half of 2017. Although fewer migrants crossed the Mediterranean in 2017, a higher percentage of those on this journey perished.”

Data for safer migrations

To monitor the current situation of migrants who have died or went missing worldwide, IOM is promoting the project Missing Migrants (http://missingmigrants.iom.int/). The initiative is “the only existing database on migrant deaths at the global level,” said IOM.

The project gathers information drafted by the organization, authorities and the media. IOM is working to progressively increase the quantity and quality of data. “Improving information is crucial to building a holistic response to reduce the number of migrant deaths”, stressed William Lacy Swing, the director general of IOM.

“Good data are essential if we are to keep track of our efforts to make migration safer,” he added.


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