A United Nations agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports that 72,263 migrants and refugees successfully entered Europe by sea through October 2, roughly a 14 per cent decrease from the 84,345 arriving during the same period last year.
Arrivals this year to Greece and Spain are at 39,155 and 17,405, respectively (56,560 combined), accounting for about 78 per cent of the regional total, with the balance arriving in much smaller numbers to Italy, Malta and Cyprus.
Arrivals to Greece are running approximately 60 per cent ahead of 2018’s totals from this time. Arrivals to Spain are more than 50 per cent lower.
But deaths recorded on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes through October 3 are at 1,041 individuals or about 55 per cent of the 1,890 deaths confirmed during the same period in 2018. The 1,041 deaths at sea include the deaths of several dozen people documented on sea routes across the Mediterranean in the past 10 days.
On September 28, 16 people died and 37 went missing in a shipwreck off the coast of Mohammédia, in Morocco’s Atlantic coast, just 27km north of Casablanca. Three survivors were rescued by the Moroccan Royal Navy, and the remains of seven people, including those of a young woman, washed ashore on the same day on Plage Zenata, in the municipality of Ain Harrouda.
Two days later, on Monday, September 30, the remains of five other people were found on a nearby beach, then remains of six more were recovered. Local NGOs Les Ponts Solidaires and the Association Marocaine des Droits Humains reported several dozen more remain missing. This is the deadliest incident that has taken place on this route since January 17, 2019, when a boat with 53 people on board disappeared without a trace in the Alborán Sea.
According to Missing Migrants Project data, 315 lives have been lost on the Western Mediterranean route between January 1 and October 1, 2019.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, five children and two women drowned when a boat capsized in the eastern Aegean Sea on September 27. Twelve survivors were rescued from the water near Oinousses, about 8km from the Turkish coast. At least 66 people have died this year attempting the crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands, including 23 children and 12 women.
These latest incidents brought the total number of deaths documented in the Mediterranean in 2019 to 1,041, the sixth year that more than one thousand deaths have been recorded on this sea crossing. the MMP data base as of today has calculated 18,960 deaths or missing-and-presumed drowned victims since January 1, 2014.
2014: 3,283 deaths; 2015: 4,055 deaths; 2016: 5,143 deaths; 2017: 3,139 deaths; 2018: 2,299 deaths; and 2019: 1,041, thus bringing the total to 18,960. Adding to these data those lost in the 2013 Lampedusa tragedy brings the total number fatalities over six years to well over 19,000 men, women and children.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project does not have data for the calendar year 2013, but certainly its researchers are aware of other shipwrecks with loss of life that year as well.
IOM Italy’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported Thursday on the gathering of refugee organisations, civil society, international organisations (including IOM) in Lampedusa to commemorate the tragic shipwreck of October 3, 2013, during which 368 migrants lost their lives.
In memory of the tragedy, Italy established in 2016 the “National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Immigration”.
“October the 3rd is a date that we must never forget”, said Laurence Hart, Director of IOM’s Coordination Office for the Mediterranean. “Last night, 72 lives were saved by the Italian Coast Guard, but this year almost 1,000 people lost their lives along the Central Mediterranean’s routes, which still remains the most dangerous migration route of the world. The tragedy of six years ago must still serve to remind us that saving human lives is an absolute priority. Behind the arrival data there are always men, women and children who lead extremely difficult lives, having faced dramatic and painful experiences.”
Di Giacomo also reported that on the night of Wednesday, October 2, 72 people were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard and brought to the island of Lampedusa. Conditions on board were dramatic and, due to severe weather, the rescue proved extremely difficult. Those present onboard included young Bengali males and women from West Africa. The migrants left Zwara, Libya, the night of Monday, September 30.
Among the rescued migrants was a 30-year-old Cameroonian woman, who told IOM staff she survived the July 2nd attack at the Tajoura Centre in Libya. “I almost died in Tajoura and I lost my younger brother; he didn’t make it,” she said. She explained: “I was taken to the hospital, but shortly thereafter they transferred me to the same centre again.”
The woman explained she managed to escape after several days and, thanks to other migrant friends she met on the way, she moved into an urban settlement with others from West Africa. After earning some cash working as a maid, she managed to leave Libya, by boarding a boat headed for Italy.
“Libya was a terrible experience for me, and I saw things that I could never have possibly imagined. I was kidnapped, by the so called ‘Hamsa Boys.’ And I was tortured for an entire month in one of their centres”, She said her family sold land in Cameroon to buy her freedom.
IOM Greece’s Christine Nikolaidu reported on Thursday that from Friday (27/09) to date, the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) was involved in at least 35 incidents requiring search and rescue operations off the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos, Oinousses, Kalymnos, Symi, Leros and the port of Alexandroupoli. The HCG rescued a total of 1,131 migrants and transferred them to the respective ports.
Those arrivals bring to 39,155 men, women and children arriving in Greece this year by sea. Those arrivals, through nine months of 2019, are more than were recorded in all but two of the last six years.
IOM Spain’s Ana Dodevska reported Thursday that 3,037 irregular migrants entered Spain by sea last month, making September the busiest month for irregular sea arrivals since January, when 4,104 came ashore. Nonetheless, last month’s totals are less than half of those of September 2018, when 8,054 irregular migrants landed on Spain’s coasts.
The following month – October 2018 – saw more arrivals to Spain than any other month over the past five years: 11,010. Those numbers are unlikely to be repeated this month, as overall arrivals in 2019 are about half of last year’s totals.
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 33,583 people, including 2,421 in 2019.
Due to the challenges of collecting information about these people and the contexts of their deaths, the true number of lives lost during migration is likely much higher. Missing Migrants Project records should only be viewed as indicative of the risks associated with migration, rather than representative of the true number of deaths across time or geography
In Europe, two young Pakistani men, aged 19 and 32, drowned in Lake Sod, in Šid, Serbia, near the border with Croatia on October 1. In Morocco, the remains of a young man were recovered from the landing gear of a Royal Air Maroc aircraft which landed at Mohamed V Airport in Casablanca on 30 September. The man, thought to be Guinean, likely hid in the wheel compartment of the plan which departed from Conakry, Guinea bound for Casablanca.
On the US-Mexico border, four people lost their lives trying to cross the Río Bravo since last week’s update. The remains of two young men were recovered in Mexico’s border state of Tamaulipas by Mexican civil protection authorities on September 27 and 28.
On the US side of the border, US Border Patrol agents recovered the remains of an unidentified man near Eagle Pass, Texas on September 29. Remains of yet another man were recovered on Tuesday, (1 October) in the river at Rancho Lemus, also near Eagle Pass, Texas.
IOM is also looking into reports that the skeletal remains of two men were discovered in recent days on ranchland in Brooks County, Texas, where some 39 migrants have been reported dead this year. On September 25 authorities recovered the remains of one individual, along with a wallet with Mexican identification documents issued to a 32-year-old man named Cesar Antonio Hurtado Gutierrez. Two days later, remains of another victim were found on a ranch nearby.
These latest border deaths bring to more than 600 the total number of fatalities recorded across four major migration corridors in the Americas. This compares with 460 at this point last year, an increase of more than 30 per cent.
Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff based at its Global Migration Data Analysis Centre but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on migrants’ deaths and disappearances are collected, click here.