6 June 2014

report by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) and the Danish Refugee Council shows that the westward route from the Horn of Africa towards Libya and Europe is being increasingly used by migrants -and people smugglers- though exact numbers are not available.

The various stages of the westward journey present serious hazards for those who undertake it.  Migrants are at a huge risk of “robbery, neglect in remote locations, brutal extortion…outright murder and negligent loss of life” at the hands of their smugglers, says the report. “There’s an unknown number of people who don’t make it to their intended dream [destination] whether it be to parts of Libya to work or to Europe,” Melissa Phillips, one of the report’s lead researchers, told IRIN.

Despite the dangers involved, since the start of 2014, more than 38,000 migrants and refugees have entered Italy irregularly by sea, most of them departing from Libya, whereas 4,290 made the crossing during the same period last year. According to the report, European countries have increasingly sought to prevent people from reaching Europe by boat from Africa. The research underlines that this approach fails to acknowledge that in mixed migration there are “multiple drivers” at work, necessitating complementary efforts by stakeholders to provide protection and services “at source (countries of origin), en route (Libya and Sudan) and intended destination countries”.

In response to the need for a dedicated data gathering mechanism for a reliable estimation of the number of migrants moving westward from the Horn of Africa, RMMS has initiated the 4Mi project (mixed migration monitoring mechanism initiative) in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). “There’s a complete black hole of information on Libya’s southern borders”, Phillips stressed.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 06 June 2014.
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