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Mediterranean migrant arrivals reach 14,854 in 2020; deaths reach 219

International Organisation of Migration (I

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 14,854 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through mid-March 2020. That’s an increase of almost 50 per cent over the arrivals reported on three principle migratory routes crossing the Mediterranean at this point last year, when IOM recorded 10,771 irregular arrivals to Europe by sea.

Most of the increase can be attributed to transit along the eastern Mediterranean route linking the Middle East and Africa to Greece, which has recorded about 2,500 more arrivals through these early weeks of 2020 than were reported through this point in 2019.

Arrivals also are higher to Italy – to 2,738 in 2020 compared to just 398 at this time last year – and to Malta, which has recorded 1,1135 arrivals so far this year, compared to 136 at this point in 2019. The Mediterranean’s western route to Spain shows the sharpest drop in arrivals – to 3,803 in 2020 from 5,491 last year.

Deaths through 18 March are down, to 219, compared to 299 this time last year. Tragedies continue to plague the Central Mediterranean route.

*IOM’s Missing Migrants Project* reports that five weeks after a 9 February alert from the NGO Alarm Phone that a boat leaving Libya with 91 passengers aboard still has not been found. GPS coordinates of the last known location of the boat have been cross-checked against records of search and rescue (SAR) operations conducted by Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities, as well as NGO rescue ships. Through 18 March, 115 are believed to have perished on this route in 2020 – more than half of them from this single incident.

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*IOM Greece*
Arrivals to Greece so far are continuing their rapid pace from a year ago. The 7,178 men, women and children arriving in Greece by sea through 18 March nearly matches the roughly 7,600 arrivals to Greece through the end of April last year.

IOM Athens reported Thursday that from last Friday (13/03) up to date, the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) has carried out at least two search and rescue operations off the islands of Lesvos and Kea. The HCG rescued a total of 214 migrants and transferred them to the respective ports.

The IOM unit also released data this week for all nationalities arriving via irregular means to Greece. According to the Hellenic Coast Guard, Afghanistan migrants continue to comprise the largest single group of irregular migrants arriving in 2020, as was the case in 2018 and 2019.

Through the end of February, IOM Athens reports 2,399 Afghan nationals have been recorded on this route, out of a total migrant population of 5,261 – or about 40 per cent of the total. The second largest group was from Syria, with 1,188 men, women and children, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (273), Somalia (250) and Iraq (218).

Among the other nationalities still being detected along this route – albeit in much smaller numbers –include Palestinians (207 arrivals), Iranians (152) and Cameroons (98). Latin Americans also continue to use this route into Europe with a total so far this year of seven individuals from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

*Missing Migrants Project*
2020 is the seventh year of IOM’s efforts to systematically record deaths on migration routes worldwide through its Missing Migrants Project.

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Since the beginning of 2014, the project has recorded the deaths of 35,720 people, including 464 as of 19 March 2020. Due to the challenges of collecting information about people who die during migration and the contexts of their deaths, the true number of lives lost is likely much higher.

Missing Migrants Project records should only be viewed as indicative of the risks associated with migration, rather than representative of the true number of deaths across time or geography.

The crisis at the Greece-Turkey border has already cost the lives of three people. On 2 March, a seven-year-old Syrian boy drowned just off the coast of Lesvos, Greece, when a boat overturned. Two men have been killed at the Greece-Turkey border, in two separate incidents. Both were taken to hospitals on the Turkish side; regrettably, the doctors were unable to save their lives.

Shipwrecks are the most common causes of migrant fatalities. Over the past seven weeks (1 February-18 March), the Missing Migrants Project has confirmed three deadly shipwrecks.

On 11 February, at least 14 women and children drowned, and 45 other people went missing when the boat taking them to Malaysia capsized in the Bay of Bengal near Saint Martin’s Island; most victims were Rohingya refugees.

Three days later, on 14 February a boat capsized in the Central Mediterranean. It departed from Chetaibi, Algeria, carrying 18 people, all of whom remain missing. Also, in February, a boat carrying 28 migrants capsized off the coast of Dakhla en route to the Canary Islands; half of them remain unaccounted for.

At the US-Mexico border, a Guatemalan teen died on 14 March, after falling while climbing the 5.5-meter-high border wall in Clint, Texas. The 19-year-old woman was eight months pregnant, traveling with her partner, who reportedly carried her until he located the US Border Patrol agents who took her to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where doctors performed an emergency C-section. Sadly, both the mother and her baby passed away.

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They join a growing list of lost lives in the border region. From the beginning of February, the Missing Migrants Project documented the deaths of 21 people at the US-Mexico border.

Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff based at its Global Migration Data Analysis Centre 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. The report Fatal Journeys Volume 4, published on 28 June 2019, includes an overview of five years of Missing Migrants Project data (2014-2018) and an update on what is known about deaths during migration in 2019.

Source: IOM

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  Hunger may see millions of migrants moving across SADC borders

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  With low refugee resettlement in 2020, UNHCR calls on states to offer places and save lives

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Hope dims for 319 Nigerians seeking evacuation as Canada turns down local carrier

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

READ  With low refugee resettlement in 2020, UNHCR calls on states to offer places and save lives

“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

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“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Nigerian girl held captive in Lebanon cries for help

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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