Two Years on from Lampedusa Tragedy, IOM Reflects on Mediterranean Deaths

Posted: 
10/02/15
Themes: 
Humanitarian Emergencies, Missing Migrants, Refugee and Asylum Issues

Italy - Tomorrow (3rd October), Italy’s Mediterranean island of Lampedusa will observe the second anniversary of a tragedy that took the lives of 368 migrants, who perished on 3rd October, 2013. Most of those who died had fled Eritrea and were attempting to sail to Europe via Libya.

In sheer numbers, that tragedy has been surpassed several times in the 730 days since rescuers brought survivors to Lampedusa, whose name has become synonymous with the fatal passage of migrants from Africa and the Middle East seeking new lives in Europe. Single day death tolls of 400 or more fatalities have occurred several times in each of the last two years.

IOM’s research unit today calculates that in the two years since the October 2013 tragedy, another 6,584 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean.

“Migrants cannot remain just a number to be counted. Governments must ensure that migrants’ rights are truly protected once and for all,” IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said this week in New York, where he attended the United Nations’ 70th General Assembly. “In this historic year, the General Assembly presents world leaders with the opportunity to acknowledge that migration is inevitable, necessary and desirable,” Ambassador Swing said on Wednesday.

Survivors of the Lampedusa tragedy and relatives of some of the deceased have come to the island to commemorate the tragedy, together with those who participated in the rescue activities and representatives of many humanitarian organizations, including IOM.

The event has been organized by the Committee 3 October, a group which was formed to help the survivors and victims' relatives, to honor not only the anniversary of the disaster, but also all migrants who have lost their lives in other desperate journeys across the Mediterranean.

New initiatives, ceremonies and meetings to raise public awareness and civil solidarity on migrants and human dignity are taking place on the island. Among the many activities, organizers are promoting a series of lessons on migration issues targeting students between 14 and 17 years old, in order to stimulate debate in schools. IOM is providing specific lessons and trainings on vulnerable migrants arriving by sea.

“One of the key issues that need to be faced in this moment is the public’s perception of migration and migrants,” said Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.

“As migration becomes a more visible policy issue for governments and society and receives more attention in the media, it is important that the public's understanding of the phenomenon is based on facts, instead of myths that wrongly portray migrants. This is work that must start in schools, and this is why we are delighted to participate in this initiative in Lampedusa.”

According to IOM estimates, some 533,500 migrants have arrived by sea in Europe this year – nearly 400,000 in Greece (399,236) and over 130,000 in Italy (131.431), with the balance – just under 3,000 – coming ashore either in Spain or Malta.

Arrivals by sea and deaths in the Mediterranean: 1 January – 1 October, 2015

Country of Arrival

Arrivals

Deaths

Italy

131,431 (IOM est.)

2,608

(Central Med route)

Malta

100

Greece

399,236 *

254

(Eastern Med route)

Spain

2,819

25 

(Western Med and Western African routes)

Estimated Total

533,591

2,887

*Greek figures reflect new data collected by IOM regional staff in Greece and the Greek authorities (1/1/2015 – 29/09/2015).  The numbers are not the daily arrivals, but the number of migrants who have officially been recorded by the Greek authorities after their arrival.

Since Tuesday, 29 September, Italian authorities have identified some 600 new arrivals in their waters - totals that suggest the migrant flow from Libya is tapering off, either because colder weather is acting a deterrent for smuggling, or because so much of the migrant traffic has shifted to Turkey and the Mediterranean’s eastern route, or for both reasons. Since Tuesday, some 11,000 new arrivals have been recorded in Greece.

The presence of children, arriving with family or as unaccompanied minors, also is growing along this eastern route. IOM teams operating in the Balkans this week said that the total number of children arriving at Greece's border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia grew from 8,287 by the last week of August (27/8) to 22,192 on Thursday (1/10). Nearly 4,000 of those minors are traveling alone - an average of 200 per day during September.

“The emergency is in the number of people arriving in Europe, and the suffering that exists in many parts of the world and the dangerous, exploitative and too often deadly conditions in which people are moving, because they have no other option. Misinformation and misperceptions perpetuate a vicious cycle, influencing government policy, mass media and public opinion, each of which then directly or indirectly influences the others, and the resulting image of migrants,” said IOM’s Soda.

“As IOM, we are directly involved in several activities aimed at breaking stereotypes among the general public. We are glad that this year’s commemorations are aimed at informing students and at increasing awareness in schools. We hope that this will be the start of a long series of similar initiatives,” he added.

The commemoration will end tomorrow with the unveiling of a sculpture called “Shipwrecked” and a final event that will bring together the survivors of the 3 October shipwreck, the people of Lampedusa, representatives of the Coast Guard and of the humanitarian organizations.
 

For latest data on arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean please visit http://missingmigrants.iom.int

For further information please contact Flavio Di Giacomo at IOM Italy. Tel: +39 0644 186 207, Email: fdigiacomo@iom.int

 

In 2015, an estimated 533,591 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea and 2,887 have died en route.