95,600 Migrants, Refugees Dare Mediterranean Sea, Enter Europe

By Akanimo Sampson

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported that 95,600 migrants and refugees have successfully entered Europe by the Mediterranean Sea that has been taking the lives of many others through November 20. Roughly, that is an eight per cent decrease from the 104,535 arriving during the same period in 2018.  

Going by the IOM report, arrivals this year to Greece and Spain are at 53,163and 22,544, respectively, (75,707 combined) accounting for about 79 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 84 per cent ahead of 2018’s totals from this time. Arrivals to Spain are more than 55 per cent lower.  

Deaths however, recorded on the three main dangerous sea routes through November 20 stand at 1,091 individuals, about 51 per cent of the 2,137 deaths confirmed during the same period in 2018.

IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo cited official Ministry of Interior figures of 10,030 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea this year through November 20, compared to 22,5412 at this same time in 2018. IOM Libya has reported that through November 15, 8.309 migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya in 2019. 

IOM Greece’s Christine Nikolaidou reported on Thursday the arrival of nearly 3,000 (12,792) irregular migrants through the Aegean between the days November 13-19, an average of nearly 400 per day.  

Through all of November daily arrivals have run to just over 280 individuals, making this the year’s third busiest month behind September (345/day) and October (297/day).  Through the first half of 2019, daily arrivals topped 125 only once, in June (126/day), and remained relatively low through the months of July and August. 

IOM Greece further reported that from Friday, the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) reported at least 39 incidents requiring search and rescue operation off the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Kos, Chios, Samothrace and the port of Alexandroupoli. The HCG rescued a total of 1,374 migrants and transferred them to the respective ports during these dates. 

Those arrivals, plus another 1,418 since November 13, bring to 53,163, the total number of sea arrivals to Greece this year.

This year 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 34,028 people, including 2,866 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. 

South Asia has within the past few days recorded a high number of deaths linked to migration and mobility in the region. On Thursday, November 14, 33 people of Afghan nationality reportedly died in a vehicle accident—a collision of two vans—on a highway near the town of Khash, in Sistan and Baluchistan, Iran.

Six people were reported to have survived this tragic incident with injuries. The remains of the 33 people from this fatal incident were repatriated to Afghanistan via the Nimroz border crossing point.   

Within Europe, fatalities linked to border crossings are estimated at 113 in 2019. The remains of an unidentified man believed to be from the Middle East/Southeast Asia, were found along train tracks in the Evros region, northern Greece on November 16. The individual was reportedly hit by a train near to the town of Soufli. Investigations regarding the specific circumstances of this tragic incident were launched.  

Migrant deaths in the Americas continue during what may be the deadliest year MMP has recorded in the past six years. In total, at least 644 people have lost their lives in the Americas in 2019, compared with the 528 that were recorded through this point in 2018.  

As always, the US-México border continues to witness fatalities, several in recent days. 

The remains of a man reportedly of Mexican origin were recovered on 10 November on a ranch in eastern Brooks County, Texas, about 80 miles north of the US-Mexican border. A few days later (November 12), the body of a 29-year-old man was found by Border Patrol agents in a bush along the road in Maverick County, Texas on November 12. That individual is believed to have died from dehydration while crossing the border into the United States from México.  

This is the second reported death linked to a border crossing in Texas that has occurred in a less than a week. The remains of an unidentified male adult person, believed to be from Latin America, were recovered besides Inspiration Road in Hidalgo County, Texas on November 14. These tragic incidents bring the total number of fatalities on the US-Mexican border to 348, and reflect how unsafe migration continues to be across this international crossing point. 

Further south, on November 19, the remains of a man believed to be from Latin America, were recovered along train tracks in San Juan de la Vega, Celaya, Guanajuato, México. He is believed to have fallen from a train. 

This week marked the 15th anniversary of the Central American mothers’ annual search caravan. A group of about 50 mothers and other family members from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua arrived in the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, México on Tuesday in search of information about their missing children and relatives.  

From its inception 15 years ago, over 310 previously reported missing individuals have been successfully located by the caravans and reunited with their families. The Caravan will proceed through the Mexican cities of Tabasco, Veracruz, Puebla and Oaxaca, México City in their search for missing family members. 

In the Caribbean, three persons reportedly from the Dominican Republic remain missing since 18 November and are feared to have drowned in an unspecified location in the Mona Passage, off Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico. A group of thirteen persons rescued by a fishing vessel operator reported that the three men reported missing jumped into the water and attempted to swim to the shore upon seeing land a few days prior to their arrival on land.  

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. The report Fatal Journey Volume 4, published 28 June, includes an overview of five years of Missing Migrants Project data (2014-2018) and an update on what is known about deaths during migration in 2019.