UN reports 2023 was deadliest year for migrants in a decade

Hundreds of thousands of people are attempting to migrate via irregular routes in unsafe conditions

A group of migrants after disembarking from a Spanish coastguard vessel on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain. Reuters
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Last year was the deadliest for migrants since records began a decade ago, with at least 8,565 people dying on migration routes worldwide, the UN's International Organisation for Migration said on Wednesday.

“The 2023 death toll represents a tragic increase of 20 per cent compared to 2022, highlighting the urgent need for action to prevent further loss of life,” the IOM said in a statement.

The previous record was reached in 2016 when 8,084 migrants died.

The IOM said that because safe and regular migration pathways remain limited, hundreds of thousands of people attempt to migrate every year via irregular routes in unsafe conditions.

The Mediterranean Sea crossing continues to be the deadliest route for migrants, with at least 3,129 deaths and disappearances registered last year.

Slightly more than half of the total migrant deaths in 2023 came as a result of drowning, with 9 per cent caused by vehicle accidents and 7 per cent violence.

The IOM's Missing Migrants Project was established in 2014 as an open-access database on migrant deaths and disappearances.

It has since documented more than 63,000 cases worldwide, though the true figure is estimated to be much higher due to challenges in data collection, particularly in remote locations.

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“As we mark the Missing Migrants Project's 10 years, we first remember all these lives lost,” said IOM deputy director general Ugochi Daniels.

“Every single one of them is a terrible human tragedy that reverberates through families and communities for years to come.

“These horrifying figures collected by the Missing Migrants Project are also a reminder that we must recommit to greater action that can ensure safe migration for all, so that 10 years from now, people aren't having to risk their lives in search of a better one.”

Updated: March 06, 2024, 6:51 PM