Deaths of migrants on sea routes to Europe more than double this year


According to a U.N migration agency report, the number of migrants and refugees who have died attempting to enter Europe via risky sea crossings has more than doubled so far this year compared to the first six months of 2020.

From another report, the International Organization for Migration revealed that at least 1,146 people died between January and June this year. Additionally, the report revealed that the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe had increased by 58%.

From the IOM findings, the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy was the deadliest route, claiming 741 lives. The Atlantic Ocean region between West Africa and Spain’s Canary Islands came next, with at least 250 people dying. At least 149 individuals died en route to Spain from the Western Mediterranean. Meanwhile, at least six people perished en route to Greece from the Eastern Mediterranean.

More migrants dead than what official figures say

Despite these findings, the IOM believes that the true number of deaths on water routes to Europe could be far higher. The organization believes this might be the case because many shipwrecks go unreported and others are difficult to verify. Moreover, many of the governments in the central Mediterranean lack search and rescue vessels, which could contribute to more deaths.

Human rights organizations across the world warn that the absence of search and rescue vessels has made migrant crossings more dangerous. Such organizations urge European governments to support North African Nations with more resources to handle search and rescue operations.

Tunisia in North Africa has expanded its search ad rescue operations by 90% in the first half of 2021. Libyan authorities on the other hand intercepted and returned almost 15,000 men, women, and children to the war-torn country, three times more than in the same period last year.

Back in Italy, the authorities have been increasingly hostile to charity rescue ships that have toiled for years to fill the hole left by European nations, often holding the vessels for months, if not years. The absence of proactive, European, state-led search and rescue operations in international waters combined with restrictions on NGOs has led to a higher death toll. Coupled with the increase in the number of boats attempting sea crossings this year, the situation only got worse.

Situation set to get worse

The Italian authorities managed to detain nine NGO-operated ships this year. Matteo Villa a researcher for the independent think tank ISPI disclosed this finding after tracking data and statistics on migration.

This year the deadliest shipwreck occurred off the coast of Libya on April 22. During the tragedy, 130 people drowned despite sending several distress calls. Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Malta, Spain, and Greece have sought other European countries for assistance. Such nations seek assistance in caring for people rescued and transported to their shores on several occasions.

When the pandemic hit last year restrictions made it hard to move between countries. The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea fell to its lowest point since 2015. Only one million people arrived in Europe, many of them refugees escaping Syria’s civil war. But with things slowly returning to normal many fear that things will get worse.



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