Global Crisis: Migrant Deaths Reach 10-Year Peak with 8,500 Fatalities Last Year

Migrant Deaths Reach 10-Year Peak with 8,500 Fatalities Last Year
FILE - A dinghy lies on the shore after a shipwreck where two migrants were killed and - Copyright © africanews Panagiotis Balaskas/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Global Crisis: Migrant Deaths Reach 10-Year Peak with 8,500 Fatalities Last Year

Last year saw the highest number of migrant deaths on land and sea routes worldwide since the UN migration agency began counting a decade ago, with at least 8,565 fatalities. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported a significant increase in deaths on the Mediterranean Sea crossing, reaching 3,129, up from 2,411 in 2022. However, this figure is notably lower than the peak of 5,136 deaths recorded in 2016 when a large number of Syrians, Afghans, and others fled conflicts toward Europe.

The total count for 2023 represents an almost 20% increase from the previous year. The majority of deaths (approximately 3,700) were due to drownings, but the tally also includes migrants who vanished, often while attempting to cross by sea, and are presumed dead even if their bodies were not found. The IOM cautioned that its count likely underestimates the actual death toll, citing improved data collection methods as a factor in its calculations.

The most significant jump in deaths in recent years occurred in Asia, where 2,138 migrants died last year—68 more than in 2022. This increase is primarily attributed to rising deaths among Afghans fleeing to neighboring Iran and Rohingya refugees on maritime routes. In Africa, a record number of deaths occurred in 2023, reaching 1,866, with most fatalities happening in the Sahara Desert and along the sea route to the Canary Islands.

The challenges of data collection in remote areas, such as the dangerous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama, were highlighted by the IOM. The Missing Migrants project, initiated in 2014 after a surge in deaths in the Mediterranean and an influx of migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa off Tunisia, aims to document and raise awareness about migrant fatalities worldwide. Ugochi Daniels, Deputy Director General of the IOM, emphasized the profound human tragedy represented by each death, echoing the far-reaching impact on families and communities.



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