The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that 22,394 persons died since 2000 trying to reach Europe by irregular routes, while around 40,000 migrants have died on route in total, globally. That makes Europe the most fatal destination for irregular migrants, worldwide.

An estimated 75% of migrants’ deaths in all parts of the world in the first eight months of 2014 occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, amounting to 3,072 deceased persons. That is over double the previous annual peak in deaths, during the Arab Spring in 2011.

According to IOM, migrants in the Mediterranean Sea are taking more risks largely due to the reinforcement of controls at  the land borders of Turkey with Bulgaria and Greece, which has been one of the main routes to Europe for Syrian refugees. Syrians and Eritreans account for 46% of all detected irregular arrivals in Europe by sea in 2013 and 46% of irregular sea arrivals in Italy in the first eight months of 2014. Of the 3,072 individuals that lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2014 until the publication of the report, 30% were from Sub-Saharan Africa, 30% from Middle East and North Africa and 11% from the Horn of Africa. The nationalities of 29% of the deceased were unknown or not specified in available data.

The IOM report examines the availability of reliable data on the deaths of migrants en route and finds that such numbers are largely inaccessible when existent, despite the vast amounts of capital spent on data collection in Europe related to border control, for example. IOM say the real numbers are likely to be higher still than those published, as many are never recovered or enter the books. The international organisation calls for better monitoring, data collection and analysis of the statistics and recommends the establishment of an independent, international monitoring body for collection of reliable data.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 3 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.