Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 14,854 in 2020; Deaths Reach 219

Geneva – 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 (see chart below). 

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. 

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.  

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.  

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.

For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, click here. Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project.   

See contacts here.