“Fatal Journeys:”: The 2014 report that was ignored by Europe as the Mediterranean becomes the worlds deadliest migrant crossing
Cartoon: The Cartoon Movement
Months before the recent tragedies that brought Europe’s attention to the problem of immigrant deaths the International Organization for Migration (IOM) published in September 2014 warns Europe that something needs to be done – a warning that was ignored by those powerful EU countries that are not directly affected, leaving Greece and Italy to deal with the problem alone.
The first nine months of 2014 there were over 3,000 migrant fatalities making Europe the most dangerous destination for “irregular” migration in the world, according to the IOM report
The report, “Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration,” was the first to put numbers to the rising global phenomenon of undocumented migrant deaths, an issue that has come to the fore in recent months as hundreds of people fleeing primarily the Middle East and North Africa have drowned on rickety smugglers’ ships in the Mediterranean and other seas around the world.
“Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers, feeding an unscrupulous trade that threatens the lives of desperate people,” said IOM Director-General William Lacy Swing. “Undocumented migrants are not criminals. They are human beings in need of protection and assistance and deserving respect,” he said.
Researchers collated previously scattered data on migrant deaths since 2000 and settled on a conservative tally of 40,000 victims worldwide — or about eight each day over the past 14 years. As steep as that estimate is, the IOM said it likely undershoots the actual number of irregular migrants who perish making arduous journeys across land and sea because so many governments make no attempt to keep track of their deaths.
In fact, counting the number of victims is, in itself, a step forward. In part because governments can deflect responsibility for irregular migrants who die along their borders, there has never been comprehensive data on the scale and scope of such fatalities. According to the IOM, “no organization at the global level is currently responsible for systematically monitoring the number of deaths that occur.”
Part of the explanation for the rising toll of migrant deaths is Europe’s proximity to the violent conflicts roiling the Middle East and North Africa, which account for many of the world’s 51 million refugees — the most since World War II.
More than 3 million people have fled Syria’s civil war since it erupted in 2011, and the Islamic State in Iraq continues to drive out thousands more from Syria as well as Iraq. Additional turmoil in Libya, Egypt, Gaza and Sudan spur a steady stream of irregular migrants to risk it all by climbing aboard less-than-seaworthy boats.
But the spike in migrant deaths also appears to be a factor of Europe’s security-minded border policy, which has grown increasingly restrictive as right-wing, anti-immigration parties have surged in elections across the continent, the report concludes.
Sources: AlJazeera, Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration