Berlin – More than 2,000 people lost their lives at sea attempting to reach Europe in 2020, despite the extensive mobility restrictions imposed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Missing Migrants Project. Another 300 deaths already have been documented thus far in 2021.
“No one should have to risk their life to flee violence or instability, or to simply seek a better life,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin.
“It will be important in the current discussions between the EU and African countries to prioritize concerted action to save lives and end this ongoing crisis of deaths,” Laczko added.
The new report—Maritime Migration to Europe: Focus on the Overseas Route to the Canary Islands—highlights key facts and figures on four main overseas irregular routes to Europe, along which over 22,000 lives have been lost since 2014. This figure likely does not capture all deaths en route to Europe during this time. As the report discusses, better migration data can help to support lifesaving policy and programmes.
Of particular concern is the maritime route to the Canary Islands, which saw a marked increase in attempted crossings and deaths in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the coronavirus acted as a multiplier of existing factors motivating migration on this route. Many of those attempting the Canary Islands crossing worked in fishing or agriculture, two sectors that have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
IOM recorded the loss of nearly 850 lives on this route in 2020, far more than recorded in any previous year since 2014, when the Missing Migrants Project began its work. However, that count may well be low. Due to the length of the overseas journey (and the fact that many migrants are believed to have lost their lives due to starvation or dehydration while at sea) the number of deaths documented en route to the Canary Islands falls short of the true total.
Case in point: not included in these data are at least five additional shipwrecks reported to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project in 2020 which could not be confirmed. These “invisible” shipwrecks – reported by NGOs in direct contact with those on board and/or with families searching for missing people – left no survivors. Moreover, no search-and-rescue operation is known to have occurred in response to distress calls made by those on board. Such cases are extremely difficult to detect, let alone verify. Yet they indicate that deaths on maritime routes to Europe are far higher than available data show.
That leaves thousands of families searching endlessly for news of those lost. Those who lose their lives on the Canary Islands route are too often buried without a name, if buried at all. The remains of at least 1,000 people remain missing in the Atlantic Sea crossing, according to Missing Migrants Project data. Remains of another 14,000 human are unaccounted for in the Mediterranean Sea.
Despite this, maritime migration to Europe continues to be framed as an issue of migrant arrivals, ignoring data that show the number of people arriving irregularly in Europe is extremely low compared to overall regular migratory flows from North and West Africa to Europe.
“The true crisis on maritime routes to Europe is the thousands of deaths recorded every year due to the lack of safe, legal and dignified mobility options,” said Julia Black, author of the new report. “Improved search-and-rescue capacities on all maritime routes to Europe are urgently needed.”
Read the new report “Maritime Migration to Europe: focus on the overseas route to the Canary Islands” here. The data used for this report can be downloaded from IOM’s Missing Migrants Project website here.
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK
The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.
Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.
Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.
Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.
“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.
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