Migrant Deaths See an Increase Since 2021

Countries rely on Migrants For Growth Potential

More than 5,000 deaths on migration routes to and within Europe since 2021, which is the highest number of recorded fatalities in any year since 2016, according to the latest report from the International Organization for Migration.

The IOM‘s Missing Migrants Project documented at least 5,684 deaths on migration routes with increasing numbers of deaths seen on routes across the Mediterranean, on land borders to Europe and within the continent.

“We’ve recorded more than 29,000 deaths during migration journeys to Europe since 2014,” said Julia Black, author of a new IOM report on Missing Migrants Project data in Europe for 2021. “These continuing deaths are another grim reminder that more legal and safe pathways to migration are desperately needed.”


The new report points out that at least 2,836 deaths and disappearances were recorded on the Central Mediterranean route since 2021 (as of 24 October 2022), an increase compared to the 2,262 deaths recorded between 2019-2020.

On the West Africa-Atlantic route to the Spanish Canary Islands, it documented 1,532 deaths in the reporting period, which is higher than any two-year period since IOM began documenting deaths in 2014.

In the report, the authors says that many other European routes saw an increase in deaths since 2021, compared to prior years. The Turkey-Greece land border saw 126 deaths, Western Balkans route saw 69, English Channel crossing 53 and Belarus-European Union (EU) borders saw 23 deaths. Apart from the IOM also recorded 17 deaths of Ukrainians fleeing the recent conflict.

Beyond a structural failure to provide adequate safe pathways, Missing Migrants Project records show that many of the deaths on migratory routes to destination countries in Europe could have been prevented by prompt and effective assistance to migrants in distress. 


In the report, the IOM said that at least 252 people died during alleged forced expulsions by European authorities, also known as push backs, since 2021. It said that the push back-related deaths were documented in the Central Mediterranean (97 deaths since 2021), in the Eastern Mediterranean (70 deaths), on the Türkiye-Greece land border (58 deaths), in the Western Mediterranean (23 deaths) and on the Belarus-Poland border (4 deaths). Such cases are nearly impossible to verify in full due to the lack of transparency, lack of access, and the highly politicized nature of such events, and as such these figures are likely an underestimate of the true number of deaths.


The Missing Migrants Project data indicate that identification rates of those who die on migratory routes to and within Europe are lower than in other regions of the world. It said that the nationalities of just four of 59 people in the Central Mediterranean (7 per cent) who died off the coast of Europe in 2021 was established. This is significantly lower than those who died off the coast of North Africa on the Central Mediterranean crossing, where 457 of 1,508 individuals (30 per cent) are recorded with a known country of origin.

In total, more than 17,000 people who lost their lives on routes to and within Europe between 2014 and 2021 are listed without any information on country of origin, a key identifying detail, which sheds light on the unresolved loss of countless families searching for missing relatives lost on migration journeys to Europe, the report said.

“There are people from 52 countries who have died on migration routes to and within Europe in our dataset,” said Black. “The scale of this issue – and the impact on families and communities dealing with unresolved losses – means there is no solution to this issue without buy-in from the authorities.

IOM calls on States in Europe and beyond to take urgent and concrete action to save lives and reduce deaths during migration journeys. States must uphold the right to life for all people by preventing further deaths and disappearances. This should include prioritizing search and rescue on land and at sea, including ending the criminalization of non-governmental actors providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in distress. Ultimately, to end migrant deaths, States must review the impact of their migration policies to ensure safe migration, and to minimize any risk of migrants dying or going missing.


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