GMDAC Data Briefing Series Issue no. 4, August 2016: Dangerous journeys - International migration increasingly unsafe in 2016

Report
from International Organization for Migration
Published on 23 Aug 2016 View Original

Germany - As the number of migrant deaths worldwide continues to rise significantly, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded 23 per cent more migrant deaths during the first half of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.

The latest IOM GMDAC Data Briefing, “Dangerous Journeys,” released on Tuesday 23 August, was prepared by the International Organization for Migration’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin. It takes an in-depth look at the available global figures for migrant deaths and disappearances during the first half of 2016.

The data collected by Missing Migrants Project indicate that the number of people who go missing or die in the process of migration has increased significantly since 2014, especially in the Mediterranean region. The increase can partly be attributed to improving data collection. However, it also speaks to the level of risk associated with attempting to migrate by irregular means across international borders in 2016, as well as the desperation that motivates people to take these migration journeys.

“In the first six months of 2016, worldwide more than 3,700 people went missing or lost their lives,” said GMDAC Director Frank Laczko. “This is a 23 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2015, and a 52 percent increase for the same time period in 2014.”

Dr. Laczko explained this dramatic change can be attributed to a higher number of recorded migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. “Worldwide, the Mediterranean Sea continues to greatly outweigh other regions in terms of the number of people who are recorded missing and/or dead during the process of migration,” he said. “Of the recorded deaths from January to June 2016, 78 percent (2,901) were in the Mediterranean. This compares with 60 percent during the same period in 2015.”

As in 2015, the majority of people who died or went missing in the Mediterranean Sea in the first six months of 2016 were lost in the Central Mediterranean. In the first half of 2016, 1 in 24 migrants died attempting the Central Mediterranean crossing, compared with 1 in 400 on the eastern route.

The high rate of death in the Central Mediterranean compared to other routes is due to two main factors: the significantly longer overseas journey; and more dangerous smuggling strategies. Crossing from North Africa to Italy via the Central Mediterranean is a journey of several hundred kilometres, compared to the dozen or so required to travel the eastern or western routes. Additionally, boats used in the Central Mediterranean are significantly larger than those used on the eastern route.

Migration through Central America, which extends from Panama through Mexico, has led to 43 recorded deaths by various means in the first six months of 2016, and it is likely that more go uncounted. Once migrants reach the border with the United States, they must cross dangerous natural terrain, which has led to at least 161 deaths in the first half of 2016.

Poverty and the fear of detection at official border crossings have long motivated migrants to illegally hop onto freight trains, collectively referred to as “La Bestia” (the beast), as they make their way through Mexico towards the United States. Journeys are notoriously dangerous, with frequent reports of assault, maiming and death from falling off the trains.

However, since the implementation of the Mexican Programa Frontera Sur in July 2014, Missing Migrants Project data indicate that train-related deaths in this region have declined. So far in 2016, 37 per cent of the migrant deaths recorded in Central America were caused by migrants being hit by or having fallen off a train, as opposed to the same period in 2015, when 60 per cent of the recorded deaths were train-related.

Nevertheless, because of the shift to more clandestine means of travel through Central America, such as by foot or hidden in vehicles, when death does occur during migration, there is a higher chance that migrants will not be found immediately, if at all.

The challenges involved in the collection of data and the identification of those who die during migration are also examined in the data briefing. There are significant gaps in knowledge on the location and context of migrant deaths globally, and the numbers recorded by Missing Migrants Project are considered to be vastly underestimated. Nevertheless, even if the numbers are an informed estimate, what before was vague and ill-defined is now a quantified tragedy that must be addressed.

For further information, please contact Frank Laczko at IOM GMDAC in Berlin. Tel. +49 30 278 778 11, Email: gmdac@iom.int

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