By Akanimo Sampson
A 16-year-old Afghan teenager lost his live during the crossing from Küçükkuyu, Turkey to the Greek island of Lesvos on October 28. His remains were recovered by the Turkish Coast Guard, which also rescued 40 survivors and returned them to Turkish shores.
Deaths recorded on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes through almost ten months of 2019 are at 1,087 individuals, or about 53% of the 2,044 deaths confirmed during the same period in 2018.
The International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project has documented several deaths on routes across the Mediterranean in recent days. Thirty-seven per cent of those who died in 2019 in the Eastern Mediterranean were children, with 27 child migrant deaths documented on this route.
In the Western Mediterranean, the remains of an unidentified man were recovered from the sea off the coast of Cartagena, Murcia on Sunday, October 27, a day in which Spanish rescue services rescued 140 people from several boats in waters near Murcia and Alicante. These boats reportedly had departed from the western coast of Algeria. In 2019, the deaths of 62 people have been recorded in the sea crossing between Algeria and Spain.
Another 166 people have lost their lives on the sea crossing across the Alborá n Sea between Nador and Andalucía, while 52 deaths have been documented on the crossing via the Strait of Gibraltar.
This year, while IOM has documented 53 deaths on the more dangerous route from the western coast of Morocco across the Atlantic Ocean to the coasts of Cádiz, five people were reported lost on another frequently used migration route to Spain, the sea crossing from the north-western coast of Africa to the Canary Islands (the “Western Africa route”).
On October 29, an oil tanker rescued 29 people from a cayuco 607km south of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, as well as the remains of four people. According to survivors’ testimonies, a fifth person went missing at sea.
Survivors reported being adrift at sea, for more than 15 days with little food or water. Many were severely dehydrated when rescued and needed emergency medical assistance. Four people were evacuated to hospitals upon arriving to the Port of Las Palmas.
In 2019, 82 people have reportedly lost their lives on this route, nearly double the 43 deaths documented in all of 2018.
In the streets of Nador, Morocco, a 13-year-old Moroccan boy was severely injured when attempting to cling to the undercarriage of a truck bound for Melilla, Spain on October 26. Tragically, he didn’t survive his injuries and passed away before arriving at a hospital.
He is one of the 180 children whose deaths have been documented by the Missing Migrants Project in 2019.
IOM, the United Nations migration agency, reports that 87,315 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through October 30, a 12% decrease from the 99,122 arriving during the same period last year.
Over half all arrivals this year (47,015) have landed in Greece, while another one-fourth (22,247) have landed in Spain, with the balance arriving in much smaller proportions to Italy, Malta and Cyprus.
IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo cited official Ministry of Interior figures of 9,648 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea this year through October 30, compared to 22,167 at this same time in 2018. IOM Libya has reported that through October 15 over, 7.300 migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to Libya in 2019.
IOM Spain’s Ana Dodevska reported on Thursday sea arrivals to Spain, through October 30 have reached 22.247, compared to 47,505 at this time last year. While monthly arrivals to Spain are lower this year overall, fatalities on the Western Mediterranean route remain high—with 324 deaths reported through six months of this year, compared to 621 at this time in 2018.
IOM Greece’s Christine Nikolaidou reported on Thursday that from Friday up to date, the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) participated in at least twenty two incidents requiring search and rescue operation off the islands of Chios, Lesvos, Leros, Samos, Kos, Farmakonisi, Pserimos and the port of Alexandroupoli. The HCG rescued a total of 739 migrants and transferred them to the respective ports.
Those arrivals plus others between October 23 and 29 bring to 47,015, the total number of sea arrivals to Greece this year.
OM Greece also reported since July 1 sea arrivals of irregular migrants have been increasing, much more rapidly than land arrivals, almost 19,000 during August and September by sea with less than 2,500 crossing by land.
IOM Greece shared data as well on nationalities of irregular migrants arriving through 30 September, with Afghanistan by far the largest contingent: 16,508 out of 39,507, or one of every three arrivals. Syrians totaled 8,950 while other large groups were reported from Iraq (2,224), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2,183), the Palestinian Territories (2014), Iran (1,410) and Cameroon (659).
Outliers from the Americas also continue to arrive in Europe via the Eastern Mediterranean migration route, including men and women from Venezuela, Ecuador, Perú, the Dominican Republic and Haití.
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 33,751 people, including 2,589 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.
Besides deaths in the Mediterranean and Africa this past week the Missing Migrants Project recorded deaths in the Americas, where, at least 623 people have lost their lives in the Americas in 2019, compared with 504 recorded through this point in 2018, an increase of 24% over last year.
On the US-Mexico border, a 33-year-old woman from México died shortly after being apprehended by the US Border Patrol near Tubac, Santa Cruz County, Arizona on 26 October. In total
Fatalities such as these are particularly apt today, 1 November, which is observed in México and throughout Latin America as All Saints Day, and is followed on 2 November by All Souls Day. These “Días de Los Muertos” in recent years have featured remembrances of migrants who have died in pursuit of prosperity and safety. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has noted that during this year’s observances migrant deaths in the hemisphere are higher than at any time over the six years IOM has been tracking these figures
These fatalities are particularly apt on November 1, which is observed in México and throughout Latin America as All Saints Day, followed on November 2 by All Souls Day. These “Días de Los Muertos” in recent years have featured remembrances of migrants who have died in pursuit of prosperity and safety.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has noted that during this year’s observances migrant deaths in the hemisphere are higher than at any time over the six years IOM has been tracking these figures.
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.