Migrant fatalities surged in 2022: UN

The UN migration agency reported June 13 that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year.

More than half of the total 6,877 deaths recorded worldwide by the project occurred among those fleeing or transiting the MENA region. Perilous sea journeys accounted for the majority of fatalities, particularly among those departing from Lebanon to Greece and Italy. At least 174 deaths were reported on this route alone, comprising nearly half of the overall death toll on the Eastern Mediterranean route. Many of the deceased remain unidentified, with up to 84% of recovered remains yet to be identified.

Land routes also posed significant risks, with 203 recorded deaths on North African routes, including treacherous crossings of the Sahara Desert, and an additional 825 deaths on Middle Eastern land routes. Libya had the highest number of recorded deaths, followed by Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt.

In summer 2022, Syrian refugees were stranded on an island in the Evros River between Greece and Turkey. Despite international attention, no rescue efforts were made by either country. Instead, only the International Rescue Committee (IRC) advocated for their evacuation, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concerns for the some 40 stranded individuals. [After weeks, the death of a child on the island finally prompted Greek authorities to organize an evacuation in August.]

In light of these findings, the IOM called for increased international and regional cooperation, as well as resources, to address the humanitarian crisis and prevent further loss of life. This aligns with Objective Eight of the UN's Global Compact for Migration, which emphasizes the need for collaborative efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of migrants.

From Jurist, June 14. Used with permission.

Migrant shipwrecks mount

As the world media have been obsessed with the search for the five ultra-rich "adventure tourists" who submerislbe imploded while diving to see the remains of the Titanic in the North Atlantic, there have been two far more deadly disasters concerning vessels overloaded with desperate migrants. At least 35 migrants are missing after their boat capsized between Tunisia and the Italian island of Lampedusa, the International Organization for Migration said June 23. (Reuters) A similar number are believed drowned after their boat sank off the Canary Islands just a day earlier. (BBC News)

This follows recent such disasters off Greece, Italy and Tunisia.

Spain to investigate migrant deaths off Canary Islands

The Spanish ombudsman's office (Defensor del Pueblo) initiated an ex officio action on June 23 in relation to a rubber boat carrying migrants capsized 40 miles off the coast of Morocco two days earlier. The boat was carrying 60, including children, and heading to the Canary Islands. Its capsize resulted in the death of more than 30 migrants. The Canary Islands have emerged the main way-station for migrants attempting to reach Spain and mainland Europe from North Africa. One day after the disaster in question, 227 migrants were rescued off the archipelago by the Spanish coast guard. (Jurist)