Migrant deaths on sea routes into Europe double

Spike in number of refugees crossing into Mediterranean in 2021

The number of migrants who drowned while trying to cross into Europe has more than doubled in the past year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

A report by the UN body showed that 1,146 people died in the first six months of 2021, higher than the 513 migrants known to have drowned on maritime sea routes last year.

The IOM says there has been a 58 per cent spike in the number of migrants attempting to cross to Europe via the Mediterranean from January to June.

At least 741 people died on the central Mediterranean route, while 149 people lost their lives crossing the western Mediterranean. A further six people died on the eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece.

A further 250 people drowned attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands on the West Africa/Atlantic route.

But NGOs fear the real number could be significantly higher due to the number of invisible shipwrecks seen across the region.

IOM reiterates the call on states to take urgent and proactive steps to reduce loss of life on maritime migration routes to Europe and uphold their obligations under international law
IOM Director General António Vitorino

The analysis was provided by the Missing Migrants Project at the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre and published in a report on Tuesday.

The IOM said search and rescue operations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean have been insufficient amid a rise in interceptions by authorities on the North African coast.

Their figures show more than 31,500 people were intercepted or rescued by North African authorities in the first half of 2021, compared with 23,117 in the first six months of 2020.

IOM Director General António Vitorino said nations need to "uphold their obligations under international law" and take urgent steps to reduce loss of life on sea routes to Europe.

“Increasing search and rescue efforts, establishing predictable disembarkation mechanisms and ensuring access to safe and legal migration pathways are key steps towards achieving this goal," he said.

Updated: July 14, 2021, 5:01 PM