Switzerland - IOM reports that 5,483 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 29 January. Over three quarters arrived in Italy – the rest in Greece. This compares with 67, 375 through the first 29 days of January, 2016.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reports an estimated 253 deaths at sea on various routes in 2017, compared with 367 through the first 29 days of 2016.
This figure is almost a reverse of the pattern a year ago, when 90 deaths occurred on the Central Mediterranean route connecting North Africa to Italy and only five deaths occurring off Spain.
In 2016 at this time, 272 deaths were reported on the Eastern route between Turkey and Greece. So far this year it is the Central Mediterranean route – with 227 deaths, and Spain, with 25, that account for almost all the fatalities at sea. There has been just one death reported off Greece earlier this month.
On Monday IOM field staff in Trapani, Italy, recorded the deaths of two brothers, aged five and eight, from the Cote d’Ivoire, who died at sea in a dinghy last weekend en route to Italy.
The boys, who died of either hypothermia or asphyxiation, were travelling with their sisters, aged 10 and 14, who survived after the dinghy in which they sailed from Zuwara, Libya, was intercepted by the French Navy ship “Bouan”on Sunday. According to the girls, the four were trying to reach their father, who is living in France.
IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo said the surviving children have been transferred to a shelter, where they will receive special assistance.
Other survivors told IOM that the dinghy was packed with some 151 migrants from West African countries including Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and the Gambia.
“Crossing the Mediterranean is always dangerous for migrants, but at this time of year the sea conditions and the cold weather can be lethal, particularly for small children,” said Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.
He added: “It is unacceptable that children like these are dying while trying to reach Europe by sea. This year, crossings of the Mediterranean have continued throughout the winter because of the increasingly dangerous and unbearable conditions that migrants face in Libya every day.”
Since the beginning of 2017, 4,292 migrants have been rescued at sea and brought to Italy. Last weekend, some 1,400 migrants – mainly Western African nationals – were brought to Sicily.
The Italian Coast Guard Ship “Diciotti” brought 778 people to Catania from seven different operations. France’s “Bouan” (operating within the framework of Operation Triton) brought 151 people to Trapani, other Italian Coast Guard ships brought 204 migrants to Lampedusa and the “Golfo Azzurro” (chartered by the Dutch NGO “Boat Refugee Foundation”) brought 300 migrants to Messina.
Other fatalities were also recorded over the weekend. Another body was brought ashore in Catania by the search and rescue vessel “Diciotti.” Migrants on that vessel told rescuers that two people fell overboard during the attempted crossing and remain missing. The remains of a Nigerian woman were found among the 204 migrants brought to Lampedusa on Sunday.
IOM Athens on Tuesday reported that in Chalkida a two-month-old baby died at the Ritsona camp on Friday, 27 January. The previous day , doctors diagnosed the child with cystic fibrosis, and recommended a referral to an Athens hospital. The mother, for unknown reasons, decided to return to the camp with the child, who died shortly thereafter.
IOM’s Greece’s Kelly Namia also reports that two men were found dead at Moria camp on the island of Lesvos. A 46-year-old Syrian man was found dead in his tent on Saturday morning (28/1). A 20-year old Pakistani was also found dead early Tuesday morning. It is the third incident at Moria in the last ten days, after the death of a 22-year-old Egyptian man last Tuesday (24/1.)
IOM’s Missing Migrant Project notes worldwide deaths through 30 January now stand at 377 men, women and children – a figure that is approximately two-thirds of the 567 total recorded by the same date in 2016.
Missing Migrants researcher Kate Dearden points out that much of that data shortfall is based on absence of reporting from three deadly migration routes – the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, the North African routes across the Sahara, and East African routes towards South Africa. For regions where data has been collected through the first three weeks of the year, fatality statistics are either ahead of last year’s levels, or virtually identical.
One glaring exception is the Caribbean, where IOM’s Missing Migrants Project is reporting 68 migrants confirmed dead or lost at sea after a tiny craft carrying Haitians foundered off the Turks and Caicos last week.
One survivor told island authorities that 69 men, women and children were on board. Over the weekend IOM learned that a total of 15 corpses have been recovered and that authorities are treating the 53 missing migrants as “unaccounted for.” Last year through the month of January, the Missing Migrants Project recorded the death of just one migrant on this route.
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