Migrants who were rescued by Spanish Salvamento Maritimo prepare to board a bus upon their arrival at the port of Malaga in Andalusia, Spain | EPA/Daniel Perez
Migrants who were rescued by Spanish Salvamento Maritimo prepare to board a bus upon their arrival at the port of Malaga in Andalusia, Spain | EPA/Daniel Perez

A study by the International Organization for Migration on migrant flows in the Western Mediterranean reveals that nearly half of the over 1,300 migrants who arrived in Spain last year reported experiencing exploitation and abuse during their journeys.

According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) flow-monitoring survey of over 1,300 migrants and refugees in Spain last year, nearly half (48 percent) of those interviewed indicated having had at least one direct experience related to human trafficking, exploitation or abuse while traveling on the Western Mediterranean route. Men, who outnumber women nine to one among those surveyed, reported a higher percentage of incidents (49 percent) than women (40 percent), IOM said in a statement.

The findings are based on 1,341 interviews with migrants and refugees from 39 different countries of origin who arrived in Spain in 2018. Conducted between July and October 2018 in transit and reception centres in more than 40 Spanish municipalities across four autonomous regions, the interviews were to shed more light on the experiences of those who arrived in the country by sea and by land via the western Mediterranean route. That route emerged as the most frequented route to Europe in 2018 with 63,325 arrivals to Spain.

'Alarming incidence of reported exploitation'

"The results of this survey show an alarming incidence of reported exploitation and abuse of migrants and refugees along the route," said Maria Jesus Herrera, IOM Chief of Mission in Spain. "It is striking how varied their motivations and experiences are, and we do not always realize the very high levels of vulnerability in play," she said. The main countries of origin of the 1,341 respondents were Guinea (29 percent), Mali (19), Côte d'Ivoire (14), Cameroon (6), Senegal (6), Morocco (5) and Algeria (4). The report showed little evidence of a significant "route shift" or diversion between the Central Mediterranean route and the western Mediterranean route in 2018.

Among the migrants surveyed, only 1.3 percent indicated they had changed their route. Morocco and Algeria, together with Libya and Mali, were reported as the countries on the route where the highest percentage of exploitative or abusive events were reported according to the migrants surveyed. Fewer events were reported in Mauritania, Niger and other countries. Around 38 percent of those surveyed had spent more than one year in transit, while less than a quarter reported traveling for three months or less. The most common route - reported by almost one third of the sample - is through Mali to Algeria and then to Morocco.

Almost half of those surveyed said that they had financial problems and reported being robbed at least once (46 percent each) during their journey, and 19 percent reported health problems. "The findings reinforce our view that much more can be done to provide specialized assistance, protection and care all along the route," said Herrera, adding that "ultimately, much of the abuse and suffering could be avoided by strengthening safe channels for regular migration."

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