Geneva – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 88,736 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 14 October, with 40,598 to Spain, the leading destination this year. In fact, since late September’s arrivals were reported, Spain in 2018 has now received via the Mediterranean more irregular migrants than it did throughout all the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined. Spain’s numbers for the year are slightly higher than the figure printed (see chart below) and reflect arrivals only through last Wednesday.
The region’s total arrivals through the recent weekend compare with 143,601 arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 319,594 at this point in 2016.
This past week was also one of the most lethal for the region in 2018. Between three and 20 migrants are confirmed drowned or missing in a shipwreck that occurred near the coast of Spain. Additionally, two fatal highway crashes in Turkey and Greece since last Friday added 33 more victims. While those are not considered deaths at sea, they do serve as a reminder of the dangers ahead that many migrants and refugees face even before they embark on un-seaworthy vessels, especially as the weather worsens in coming months.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reports 1,839 deaths on the Mediterranean in 2018, which translates to a weekly average of almost 45 men, women and children. That compares with 2,831 (69 per week) through this time last year and 3,709 (90 per week) at this point in 2016.
IOM Italy’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported that on Saturday (13 October) 69 migrants – mainly coming from the Horn of Africa, Morocco and Bangladesh – arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, off the North Africa coastline. Migrants on the voyage said they left Tripoli on the night of 10 of October in a small wooden boat. The first responder to their calls for help was the Mare Jonio – an Italian-flagged private rescue ship funded by an activist project – which subsequently was joined by an Italian Coast Guard vessel that rescued them and brought all 69 to Lampedusa.
While migrants coming from Morocco and Bangladesh told IOM staff that they had been living in Libya for as long as two years prior to their departure – and were only now leaving because of a deteriorating security situation – those arriving from the Horn of Africa reported to have been unofficially detained for many months (and, in some cases, years) in underground bunkers or in warehouses that had been turned into makeshift prisons.
These survivors said jailers beat them daily with sticks and tortured them with electric wires. They added that normally eight people had to share a single meal per day.
As mentioned above, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has documented the deaths of 1,839 people on the Mediterranean in 2018. Most recently, 57 people lost their lives in three shipwrecks in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, an Iraqi woman managed to swim to shore and inform Turkish authorities of a boat that capsized on 8 October off the coast of Izmir. A search-and-rescue operation retrieved the bodies of eight people (four Iraqi nationals and four Afghans), while the remains of another 26 travelling on the same boat have not been recovered. The Iraqi woman, the sole survivor of this tragedy, told a horrifying story of spending 28 hours at sea as her husband and five children died around her. Sadly, this is not a rare event, as 152 people have lost their lives already this year attempting to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece.
In the Western Mediterranean, Spanish rescue services recovered the remains of three migrants and rescued 35 survivors from a sinking boat found adrift in the Alboran Sea on 12 October. Survivors reported that 17 people had fallen into to sea and drowned before the rescuers arrived. On 11 October, two people drowned off the coast of Tangiers, according to the NGO Alarmphone. Their hotline received a call from a boat in distress in the Gibraltar Strait, in which 11 people were trying to cross to Spain. Only nine people managed to return to the Moroccan shore, while two fell into the water and drowned.
These recent deaths are included in the 420 documented off Spain by the Missing Migrants Project team in 2018. While tragic and alarming, these figures still fail to capture the true number of fatalities, as it is believed that several boats and all their passengers have disappeared at sea without a trace. During the entire last year on this route, IOM recorded the deaths or disappearances of 224 men, women and children, or just over half of 2018’s grisly toll thus far.
IOM Greece’s Antigoni Avgeropoulou reported on Monday (15 October) that from Thursday through Sunday (11-14 October), the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) informed the United Nations Migration Agency it was involved in at least four incidents requiring search and rescue operations off the islands of Samos and Lesvos. The HCG rescued a total of 181 migrants and transferred them to those islands.
Additional arrivals over these past four days of some 220 individuals to Kos, Kalimnos and the previously mentioned islands of Samos and Lesvos brings to 24,912 the total number of arrivals by sea to Greece through 14 October.
Sea arrivals to Greece in October by irregular migrants are running at a rate of around 120 per day, or slightly ahead of the daily average of 87 men, women children thus far through the entire year (see chart below). A rate of 100 migrants per day has remained steady since late July.
IOM Greece’s Christine Nikolaidou also updated on Monday on the 11 victims, all believed to be migrants, with no nationalities yet reported. They were found dead after a car accident that took place on Saturday morning (13 October) at 5:00 AM on the Kavala highway in Northern Greece. She said a mini-van transporting 11 migrants collided with a truck, triggering a conflagration that left both vehicles in flames. The driver of the mini-van, a 39-year-old Greek national, was slightly injured and transferred to a local hospital. According to the Greek authorities the collision was a result of mini-van’s speeding.
Nikolaidou further reported that 11 Pakistanis were involved in a car accident that also took place on Kavala’s local highway the following day (Sunday, 14 October) at around 6:00 PM. She said there were no fatalities in that incident, but two people were slightly injured and transferred to the local hospital for observation. An alleged smuggler – thought to be from Georgia – was arrested. Police also recovered forged documents.
IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, through its Missing Migrants Project, has documented the deaths of 2,902 people during migration in 2018 (see chart below).
In Europe last week, the bodies of three women were found on the Greek side of the Evros river on 10 October, in Greece’s north-eastern border with Turkey. An examination of the bodies by forensic experts determined that they had been murdered. A few days later, 11 migrants were killed in a car crash near Kavala, in northern Greece. The victims are believed to have crossed into Greece from Turkey through irregular means. The car in which they were travelling collided with a truck and burst into flames. Tragically, all victims were burned beyond recognition. No details on their identities, country of origin, sex or age are available.
Another vehicle accident cost the lives of 22 people in Turkey’s western province of Izmir on 14 October. They were reportedly travelling by truck to the coast, where they would have boarded boats heading to the Greek island of Samos, when the truck plunged to the side of the road, killing 22 people and injuring 13. At least four children and a pregnant woman died in the crash.
In addition to this devastating death toll in Europe and in the Mediterranean, 306 migrants are known to have died on the US-Mexico border, compared with 281 in 2017.
Most recently, the dangerous currents of the Río Bravo caused the deaths of three people. On 11 October, US Border Patrol agents recovered the remains of a migrant from the banks of the Río Bravo near La Joya, Texas. During the weekend, the remains of two young Dominican men were found within a single 24-hour period. It is not known if they were traveling together. On Saturday, 13 October the body of 36-year-old “Fernando” was recovered by Mexican civil protection authorities near the International Bridge II in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Less than a day later, the body of 19-year-old “Luis Alberto” was found near Éjido El Bayito.
IOM estimates some 64 people have drowned in the Río Bravo since the beginning of the year. Besides drowning in the Río Bravo, many migrants also die in the remote ranch lands of southern Texas. Recently, US Border Patrol agents found the remains of a migrant in a ranch near Brownsville, in Cameron County.
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 migrants’ deaths and disappearances are collected, click here.
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