Berlin – At least 1,146 people have died trying to reach Europe by sea in the first six months of 2021, according to a new briefing released today by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Deaths along these routes have more than doubled so far this year compared to the same period in 2020, when 513 migrants drowned.
The note highlights the current situation along some of the world’s most dangerous maritime migration routes. While the number of people attempting to cross to Europe via the Mediterranean increased by 58% between January and June of this year compared to the same period in 2020, more than twice as many people lost their lives.
“IOM reiterates its call on States to take urgent and proactive measures to reduce the loss of life on maritime migration routes to Europe and to comply with their obligations under international law,” said the Director General of IOM, António Vitorino. “Increasing search and rescue (SAR) efforts, putting in place predictable disembarkation mechanisms and ensuring access to safe and legal migration routes are key steps in achieving this goal.
The analysis, produced by the Missing Migrants Project of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Center (GMDAC), shows an increase in deaths associated with insufficient search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and on the road Atlantic to the Canary Islands, and at a time when interceptions off the North African coast are also on the rise.
So far in 2021, most of the men, women and children who died trying to reach Europe were attempting to cross the Mediterranean, where 896 deaths have been documented by IOM.
At least 741 people have died on the Central Mediterranean route, while 149 people have died crossing the Western Mediterranean and six have died on the Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece.
During the same period, some 250 people drowned while trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands on the West Africa / Atlantic route. However, that number may well be low. Hundreds of cases of invisible shipwrecks have been reported by NGOs in direct contact with those on board or with their families. Such extremely difficult to verify cases indicate that deaths on sea routes to Europe are much higher than available data show.
One example is March 24, when Sohail Al Sagheer, a 22-year-old Algerian rapper, disappeared as he and nine friends left Oran, Algeria, for Spain. His family carried out a frantic search for information on what had happened to him, torn by rumors that he was among the victims of a shipwreck off Almería, Spain. His body was finally found on April 5, off the coast of Aïn Témouchent, in Algeria.
The record also shows an increase for the second consecutive year in maritime operations by North African states along the Central Mediterranean route. More than 31,500 people were intercepted or rescued by the Maghreb authorities in the first half of 2021, compared to 23,117 in the first half of 2020.
These operations off the Tunisian coast increased by 90% in the first six months of 2021 compared to 2020. In addition, more than 15,300 people were returned to Libya in the first six months of 2021, or nearly three times more than at the same time. in 2020 (5,476 people). This is of concern given that migrants who are returned to Libya are subjected to arbitrary detention, extortion, disappearance and torture.
The briefing highlights the current data gaps on irregular maritime migration to Europe. Better data can help states urgently meet their commitments under Goal 8 of the Global Compact for Migration to “save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants”.
The file is available for download here.
For more information please contact:
Andrea Garcia Borja at IOM GMDAC, Email: [email protected]
Merna Abdelazim at IOM RO Cairo, Email: [email protected]
Safa Msehli at IOM Geneva, Tel. : +41 79 403 5526. E-mail: [email protected]
Jorge Galindo at IOM GMDAC, Tel. : +491601791536, E-mail: [email protected]