Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 15,289 in 2018; Deaths Reach 517

Geneva – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 15,289 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through the first 95 days of 2018, with about 44 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece (33%) Spain (23%) and Cyprus (less than 1%).

This compares with 31,060 at this point in 2017, and with 172,089 at this point in March in 2016.

IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo on Thursday shared data released this week in Italy concerning the top 11 countries of origin where arriving migrants are coming from (see chart below).

According to Italy’s Ministry of Interior the leading sender country arriving via the Mediterranean’s Central route this year is Eritrea, with 1,552 – or about 25 per cent of the 6,161 men, women and children leaving North Africa by sea.  Tunisia was second on the 2018 list, with just under 1,200 arrivals, followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Guinea and Senegal – all with between 200 and 500 arrivals. Rounding out the bottom of the list are Mali and Algeria, both with fewer than 200 arrivals through 2018’s first three months.

Comparing these data with arrivals from 2015 through 2017, IOM notices a distinct shift. The single largest sender, Nigeria, has been the origin for over 78,000 migrants since 1 January 2015, although three quarters of that total was compiled before 2017.

Similarly, the lion’s share of the totals for Senegal (22,508), Côte d’Ivoire (25,917), Sudan (24,712) and Guinea (26,074) each also predate 2017. Eritrea, this year’s leader, has sent 68,484 migrants to Italy via North Africa since 1 January 2017. But more than 60 per cent of that total arrived before 2017 (see chart below)


By contrast, 2017 and 2018 have seen a greater proportion of arrivals from North Africa – from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya. Of some 8,000 Tunisians crossing the Mediterranean to Italy since 2015, over 6,000 have arrived since the beginning of 2017. Sudan, which averaged 500 arrivals monthly in 2017 – and nearly 800 in 2016 – has dropped this year to a monthly average under 80 new arrivals to Italy. Bangladesh – with over 22,000 arrivals through the 36 months between January 2015 and January 2018 (or over 600 per month) this year is averaging fewer than 80 per month.

IOM Libya’s Christine Petré reported Thursday that on Saturday (31 March) 80 migrants (all men) were returned to Libyan shores by the Libyan Coast Guard. Most of those migrants came from Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria and Morocco. The migrants were on a rubber boat trying to reach Italy after embarking from Zuwara.

IOM arrived at the disembarkation point and provided primary medical health care, protection screenings, food, water and juice. The migrants were transferred to Tajoura detention centre where IOM distributed non-food items, hygiene kits and clothes to the concerned migrants.  No emergency cases were reported and no bodies were retrieved.

IOM reports that, so far in 2018, 3,479 migrants have been returned to Libyan territory by the Libyan Coast Guard; this is a 5 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

Petré also reported on Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) flights leaving Libya this week, including three charters and one commercial transport bringing migrants home to Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Sierra Leone and the Philippines. Over 5,340 returning migrants have completed these flights since 1 January, and over 11,500 since the scale-up phase started on 28 November 2017. At least 24,710 migrants have returned home from Libya with IOM’s assistance since 1 January 2017.

IOM Greece's Kelly Namia reported Thursday that over four days, the Hellenic Coast Guard reported at least three incidents requiring search and rescue operations off the island of Lesvos and Chios. The Coast Guard rescued 167 migrants and transferred them to these respective islands.

IOM Spain’s Ana Dodevska reported Thursday that total arrivals by sea in 2018 have reached 3,460 men, women and children who have been rescued in Western Mediterranean waters through 5 April. This compares with 3,326 arriving last year through all of April.



Most recently, 19 migrants died in different incidents in the Western Mediterranean. On 1 April, Spain’s maritime rescue service rescued one person and recovered four bodies from a sinking boat during a rescue operation in the Gibraltar Strait. The sole survivor told authorities that 12 migrants had been on the boat when it capsized.

On 2 April, another body was retrieved in waters near Barbate, Cádiz: the current death toll from Sunday’s shipwreck stands at five dead and six missing. This tragedy took place only a few days after a boat carrying seven migrants capsized in the same area: according to Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, seven men went missing on 29 March in waters between Morocco and Spain. Additionally, the remains of one migrant were found by local fishermen near Al-Hoceima, Morocco on 1 April. In the first three months of 2018, 139 migrants have died or gone missing when attempting to reach Spain.

In the Mediterranean, 517 migrants are estimated to have died, compared with 804 through this point in 2017. It is important to consider that for the past three years, IOM has reported 500 Mediterranean Sea deaths before the end of March, a trend that has been consistent even though overall deaths and arrivals data have fluctuated considerably over those same three years.

In 2016 – the deadliest year on record – IOM recorded the deaths of over 5,000 irregular migrants on the Mediterranean for the full year, and over 362,000 total arrivals. In 2017 the fatalities totals dropped to just over 3,000 with just over 170,000 total arrivals. In short: even though both fatalities and arrivals fell sharply between the two years, fatalities during both years’ initial quarters were remarkably consistent.

Indeed, it was only in 2014 – the first full year IOM recorded the daily movement of migrants on the Mediterranean – that 500 deaths did not occur within the year’s first 100 days. That year it wasn’t until mid-year – 27 June – when the Missing Migrants Project recorded its 500th fatality. For the second half of the year, over 2,500 deaths were recorded.

It is also important to note that this year’s 500+ deaths have occurred despite a steep drop in total arrivals. This is true even of Spain, which had seen a rapid rise in the volume of arrivals and deaths on its Western Mediterranean Sea route during the second half of 2017, but whose volumes during the first quarter of 2018 are virtually identical those of 2017, a year during which 224 men, women and children drowned attempting to reach Spain.

Already this year nearly 140 irregular migrants have died trying to reach Spain, or about two-thirds the 2017 total – yet with three quarters of the year remaining. The explanation for this near tripling of the route’s fatalities does not lie with a corresponding rise in volume, but with something else.

This is also the case with Italy, where about 360 deaths on the Mediterranean’s Central Route through 100 days is less than half of 2017’s total during the same period. That noted, 2018 arrivals total just slightly more than one-quarter of 2017’s – which means even though the death toll is smaller, the ratio of drownings to arrivals is actually much higher than was being recorded at this time last year.

All of this makes difficult predicting 2018’s next nine months.

Worldwide, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded 871 deaths and disappearances during migration in 2018, compared with 1,420 through 4 April in 2017 (see chart below).

Several deaths were recorded in other regions since last week’s update. In recent days, 43 migrants and refugees died in vehicle accidents in different parts of the world. In the Horn of Africa, a tragic road accident occurred in Tanzania on 29 March that took the lives of six refugees, along with one IOM team member and one Tanzanian citizen. The accident took place near Ngara town and happened during the transport of 515 Burundians undertaking voluntary return in a convoy of buses chartered by IOM.
In Thailand, a fire on a bus carrying migrants from Myanmar killed 20 people, including 18 women, on 30 March. That incident took place in Tak province in western Thailand, along the border with Myanmar. On the Turkey-Armenia border, a minibus carrying migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran crashed in Turkey’s eastern province of Igdir on 30 March, killing 17 people.
In Mexico, one man died after falling from a freight train near Escárcega in the Mexican state of Campeche. Additionally, MMP received data this week from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in Arizona, USA for March: the remains of eight migrants who lost their lives crossing the US/Mexico border were recovered at different locations in Pima County during last month.

MMP data are compiled by IOM staff but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on missing migrants are collected, click here.
For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit:
Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project at:

For more information, please contact:
Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email:
Mircea Mocanu, IOM Romania, Tel:  +40212115657, Email:
Dimitrios Tsagalas, IOM Cyprus, Tel: + 22 77 22 70, E-mail:
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email:
Hicham Hasnaoui, IOM Morocco, Tel: + 212 5 37 65 28 81, Email:
Kelly Namia, IOM Greece, Tel: +30 210 991 2174, Email:
Julia Black, IOM GMDAC, Germany, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email:
Christine Petré, IOM Libya, Tel: +216 29 240 448, Email:
Ana Dodevska, IOM Spain, Tel: +34 91 445 7116, Email:
Myriam Chabbi, IOM Tunisia, Mobile: +216 28 78 78 05, Tel: +216 71 860 312 Ext. 109, Email: