Afghan migrant children in Oinofyta, Greece, wait for their English class to start | Photo: UNESCO
Afghan migrant children in Oinofyta, Greece, wait for their English class to start | Photo: UNESCO

In its fourth “Fatal Journeys” report, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) says nearly 1,600 children have been reported dead or missing since 2014. While the number of deaths and disappearances of migrants around the world has dropped overall, according to IOM data, the risk of death along the Central Mediterranean route has increased.

A new report from the IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre highlights the need for better data on migrant deaths and disappearances, particularly when it comes to missing migrant children.

The fourth edition of the “Fatal Journeys” report focuses on missing migrant children amid the growing number of children embarking on dangerous migrant journeys. According to IOM data, nearly 1,600 children have been reported dead or missing since 2014, though many more go unrecorded.

“Children dying or disappearing during migration should be a concern to everyone,” said Ann Singleton, senior research fellow at the University of Bristol and co-editor of the report. “There is an urgent need for better policies and action, informed by better data, to prevent these deaths and protect children.”

Globally, the number of deaths and disappearances between 2017 and 2018 fell significantly, from 6,280 to 4,734. IOM says the drop is likely mainly due to fewer migrants using the Central Mediterranean route to reach Europe.

Deadly crossing

Although the number of migrants attempting to cross from North Africa to Italy fell from 144,000 in 2017 to 46,000 in 2018, the risk of death on the Central Mediterranean route increased last year. According to the report, even the “most conservative estimates” suggest that 1 in 35 people attempting to cross perished in 2018, compared with 1 in 50 in 2017.

Along the Western Mediterranean route to Spain, the recorded number of migrant deaths also rose sharply: from 224 in 2017 to 811 in 2018. Unlike the Central Mediterranean route, though, the higher death toll is due to the increasing numbers of migrants who used this route to reach Europe.

Since 2014, IOM’s Missing Migrants project has recorded the deaths of more than 32,000 people worldwide. Given that many bodies are never found or identified, IOM says these figures are likely much lower than the real number of deaths.

Call for better and more data

“Children are among the most vulnerable groups of migrants, but data on the age, characteristics and vulnerabilities of missing migrant children are very limited,” said Kate Dearden, data analyst for IOM’s Missing Migrants Project in the Fatal Journeys report.

The report includes chapters highlighting the vulnerabilities of children on the move, the legal obligations of states regarding the death and disappearance of children on the move, and the ethical considerations of research on this sensitive subject.

The report also discusses ways to improve data on missing migrant children:

  • Collecting better data on missing migrants – including children – from a wider range of sources, and from regions where data is often quite scarce;
  • Focusing on the families of missing migrants to obtain a better understanding of the challenges families face when searching for information about their relatives;
  • Efforts to improve national migration data capacities ought to include a focus on the most vulnerable children, including those who may become missing migrants.

•••• ➤ Help available to look for missing children and other relatives:

National missing children organization in your country

Restoring Family Links: Tracing service of the International Committee of the Red Cross

German Red Cross Tracing Service (in English)

Trace the Face - Migrants in Europe: a photo-based tracing service for people looking for their relatives

The phone number of the European hotline for missing children is 116000


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