Mediterranean Sea Deaths: Specific Cause Under Probe As 104,644 Migrants, Refugees Enter Europe

Mediterranean sea: Where most migrants die

Investigations into the specific cause of death on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes for migrants and refugees have been launched as deaths recorded on the routes through December 11 stood at 1,246 individuals. This is however, about 56 per cent of the 2,219 deaths confirmed during the same period in 2018.

The International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project (MMP) noted several tragedies in the past week along the Mediterranean route. On the Western Mediterranean migration route, the remains of an unidentified person believed to be from Sub-Saharan Africa were recovered in Bouyafar in Morocco on Friday, December 6.

On December 10, a shipwreck off the coast of Maghnia, Tlemcen, Algeria claimed the lives of seven people. The remains of one person, between 22 and 30 years, were recovered, while another six remain missing at sea.

All on board were said to be from Algeria.

This is coming as IOM reports that 104,644 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through December 11, roughly a six per cent decrease from the 110,851 arriving during the same period last year.

Arrivals this year to Greece and Spain are at 58,571 and 25,759, respectively (84,330 combined), accounting for about 80 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 93 per cent ahead of 2018’s totals from this time. Arrivals to Spain are more than 55 per cent lower.

IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo cited official Ministry of Interior figures of 11,097 migrants who have arrived in Italy by sea this year through December 11, compared to 23,122 at this same time in 2018. IOM Libya has reported that through November 30, 8,613 migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya in 2019.

IOM Greece’s Christine Nikolaidou reported on Thursday that the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) took part in at least 29 search and rescue operations off the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kalymnos, Samothrace and the port of Alexandroupoli. The HCG rescued a total of 1,106 migrants and transferred them to those respective spots.

Those arrivals, plus others to additional islands, bring to 58,571 the total number of sea arrivals to Greece this year. With three weeks remaining in 2019, total arrivals could well surpass the total – 62,243 men, women and children – on this route from 2017 and 2018 combined.

Missing Migrants Project 

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 34,285 people, including 3,098 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 last week the remains of four men and two women were found on the banks of the Evros River after they crossed from Turkey into Greece. Cause of death is likely hypothermia. The two women are believed to have been Sub-Saharan Africans. Their nationalities remain unknown.

In Latin America, another six deaths have been recorded since the previous week’s update, including three drownings of migrants crossing the Río Bravo separating Texas from Mexico. On November 25, the remains of a young Honduran man were recovered on the bank on the Mexican side of the Río Bravo.

One day before, an unidentified person was found drowned in the same river, near Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas, Mexico. On December 7, a 22-year-old Mexican man also was found drowned in the Río Bravo, near Reynosa Díaz, Tamaulipas.

On Thursday, December 5, an unidentified man between age 40 and 45 years old and believed to be from Central America, died as a result of violence near Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. The following day, December 6, a 35-year-old man, also believed to be from the region, lost his life from falling from the “La Bestia” – the migrants’ nickname for the network of freight trains – as he travelled north through Veracruz, Mexico.

On December 8, a 23-year-old Guatemalan was reportedly shot near Juan Rodríguez Clara, also in Veracruz. She was one of a group of migrants in the back of a truck, which was attacked by gunfire.

Migrant deaths in the Americas continue during what may be the deadliest year Missing Migrants Project has recorded in the past six years. In total, at least 657 people have lost their lives in the Americas in 2019, compared with the 551 that were recorded through this point in 2018.

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.

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