About 80 percent of all migrant deaths are reportedly due to drowning during sea crossings | Photo: Picture-alliance / AP Photo / E. Morenatti
About 80 percent of all migrant deaths are reportedly due to drowning during sea crossings | Photo: Picture-alliance / AP Photo / E. Morenatti

For the sixth year in a row, the number of migrants who have died in the Mediterranean Sea has eclipsed the 1,000 mark, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The Mediterranean route remains the most fatal migration route in the world.

More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have perished trying to cross the Mediterranean from north Africa to Europe since the beginning of the year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday in Geneva. This makes 2019 the sixth year in a row with more than 1,000 casualties.

Fellow UN organization UNHCR also lamented the deplorable record, calling it a "bleak milestone."

"UNHCR is urgently calling for an increase in search and rescue capacity, including a return of EU state vessels to search and rescue operations, and an acknowledgement of the crucial role of NGO boats in saving lives at sea," spokesman Charlie Yaxley said in a statement.

At least 15,000 people have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014, according to IOM. Most of them drowned.

From January until September this year, the IOM’s Missing Migrants project officially recorded 994 dead migrants. A shipwreck off the coast of Morocco from last weekend still needs to be examined, but IOM expects 40 fatalities.

Fewer arrivals, fewer deaths and lower death rate

If one can even speak of a silver lining, it’s that the Mediterranean became less deadly this year: Not only have fewer migrants arrived this year compared to 2018, but both the overall death toll and the death rate also dropped. That's according to IOM data, which also shows that the total of deaths has been steadily declining since 2016, when 3,602 deaths were recorded.

With some 64,000 people arriving in the first nine months, migrant arrivals by sea in Europe have gone down significantly in 2019. Over the same period last year, nearly 100,000 migrants arrived in Europe.

What’s more, both the death toll and the death rate decreased this year, with the former even having almost halved: The 1,890 people who died from January through September last year are almost double the some 1,000 deaths recorded this year over the same period.

The death rate also shrank, albeit not as dramatically as the death toll: While 13 migrants out of every 1,000 who tried to make it to Europe via the Mediterranean died between January and October last year, the number for the same period this year was ‘only’ nine out of every 1,000 migrants.

The Mediterranean is deadliest route

Despite the lower death toll and death rate, the Mediterranean Sea remains the most fatal migration route in the world: From 2014 until today, more than 15,000 people died trying to reach European soil. The Mediterranean is also the deadliest place for children, with 678 deaths recorded.

According to an IOM report from July, children are dying during migration at alarming rates, most of them perishing on the Mediterranean. The deadliest routes for children are those that involve water crossings.

Of the 32,000 migrants who were reported dead or missing from 2014 to 2018, nearly 1,600 were children under the age of 18. The figure represented an average of one child dead or missing per day, some as young as 6 months old.

The IOM report came days after the release of a shocking photo showing a central American migrant father and daughter drowned in the Rio Grande, after they had tried to reach the US.

With material from Reuters, epd


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