The International Organization for Migration announced today that the number of migrants who have died at sea trying to reach Europe has more than doubled, reaching 1,146 in the first half of the year.
For the entire 2019, the number of deaths of migrants was 674 people, according to the IOM report, which is half the number of deaths in only 6 months of 2021. In 2020, this figure was 513. The organization calls on states to take urgent action. The message says:
“Civilian search and rescue agencies continue to face significant obstacles as most of their vessels are anchored in European ports due to administrative hijackings and pending criminal and administrative proceedings against crew members.”
The international organization also draws attention to the fact that the increase in mortality is increasing due to shipwrecks that carry migrants off the coast of North Africa. For many years, Italy and the EU have trained, equipped and funded the Libyan Coast Guard to prevent traffickers from smuggling refugees into Europe in makeshift boats. She was also technically assisted by an Italian warship moored in Tripoli. However, Libya’s coast guard is often accused of mistreating migrants. According to international maritime law, those rescued at sea must land in a safe harbor, but the UN does not consider Libya’s ports to be safe. Antonio Vitorino declares on behalf of the IOM:
“IOM reiterates its call on states to take urgent and preventive measures to reduce the number of casualties on maritime migration routes to Europe and to comply with their obligations under international law. Strengthening search and rescue efforts, establishing predictable landing mechanisms and ensuring access to safe and legal migration routes are key steps in achieving this goal. ”
In the first half of this year, the majority of deaths (896) were recorded in the Mediterranean, a 130% increase over the same period last year. Of the dead, most (741) found their death in the waters of the Central Mediterranean, 149 people drowned in the Eastern Mediterranean. Six migrants have died trying to reach Greece from Turkey.
IOM experts note that these reports do not reflect reality, underestimating the death toll. NGOs that are in direct contact with migrants and their families report “hundreds of cases of invisible shipwrecks.” The Geneva-based international organization emphasizes:
“These cases, which are extremely difficult to verify, show that the death toll on sea voyages to Europe is much higher than the available data indicate.”
At the same time, IOM reports thousands of migrants rescued by the North African authorities in the first 6 months of this year. More than 31,500 people, up from 23,117 in the first half of 2020, were intercepted or rescued. During the same period, approximately 15,300 people were deported to Libya, which is 3 times more than in 2020 (5,476).
But for IOM, the current situation “is of concern, as migrants returning to Libya face arbitrary detention, extortion, disappearance and torture.”