Geneva – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 149,785 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 29 October, with about 75 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 334,914 arrivals across the region through the same period last year.
IOM Rome reported Monday (30/10) that official figures from Italy’s Ministry of the Interior indicate a total of 111,302 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea this year – a drop in annual totals from this time last year by more than 30 per cent.
Reviewing total arrivals through June 2017, IOM researchers have determined that this year began as the busiest of the past four years of this Central Mediterranean migration emergency, with 83,752 arrivals – a total some 20 per cent higher than either of the previous two half-years (January-June, 2015 and 2016) when each year around 70,000 migrants arrived from North Africa to Italy. (See chart below.)
But over the past four months that trend had reversed. During the 2017 months of July-October, IOM has calculated arrivals to Italy fell to 27,550 – well under a third of 2016’s total for those same four months (89,205) well under half of 2015’s total on the Central Mediterranean route (70,658).
The sharp drop-off in arrivals cannot be explained either by IOM’s increasing efforts to repatriate African migrants from Libya this year – a total of 12,456 men, women and children through 29 October – or by the 18,835 migrants rescued so far this year in Libyan waters. Those two totals combined come to just over 31,000 individuals, or roughly half the 61,655 difference between 2016’s totals for the late summer-early fall period and 2017’s comparable figures.
IOM Geneva spokesman Joel Millman made this observation concerning these latest numbers: “We notice two things straight away. One is that the wide presence of rescue vessels across this Central Mediterranean these past four months did not serve, as some predicted, as a ‘pull factor’ drawing ever increasing numbers of migrants towards Europe from Africa. The second point: fatalities along this route, traditionally the region’s most deadly season, also have dropped sharply during the summer of 2017.”
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded that from July through October 2015, some 1,622 migrants and refugees died crossing the Mediterranean. In 2016 that total fell to 1,093. This year, through 29 October 2017, the total is 567.
Deaths, while down, have not stopped. On Sunday (29 October), a boat carrying 51 people capsized off the coast of Tangiers, Morocco, in the Western Mediterranean. Two migrants lost their lives and a rescue operation was underway Monday to search for those who remain missing. These deaths bring total Mediterranean fatalities in 2017 to 2,826.
“For now, local NGOs have confirmed only two deaths from this incident in the Western Mediterranean,” said Marta Sanchez in the Missing Migrants Project’s Berlin offices. “The boat was carrying 51 people (including 10 women and two babies). Several survivors, including one pregnant woman, were taken to the hospital suffering from severe fuel burns. The Moroccan Navy was coordinating a search for three migrants who remain missing.”
Worldwide, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) has recorded the deaths of 4,842 people migrating in 2017 through 29 October.
In North Africa, the deaths of six migrants were recorded on 21 October, on a motorway between Tangiers and Asilah, Morocco, separately from the boat carrying 51 people that capsized off Tangiers on 29 October. Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on missing migrants are collected, click here.
Latest Mediterranean Update infographic
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