With 3,771 deaths, 2015 was the deadliest year on record for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported today. In 2014, 3,279 deaths were recorded in the Mediterranean Sea.
Globally, IOM estimates that over 5,350 migrants died in 2015. IOM also recorded total sea arrivals to Europe in 2015 at 1,004,356 or almost five times the previous year’s total of 219,000.
The deadliest month in 2015 was April when nearly 1,250 migrants died, mainly due to the worst tragedy on record involving migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, in which an estimated 800 migrants died when their overcrowded vessel capsized off the coast of Libya. Only 28 survivors were rescued and brought to Italy.
Seventy-seven per cent of the deaths occurred in the Central Mediterranean route mostly used by smugglers operating from Libyan shores. This compares to 97 per cent of migrant deaths recorded along this route in 2014.
In 2015, 21 per cent of deaths occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean compared to only 1 per cent in 2014. In the Central Mediterranean, deaths recorded were down by 9 per cent from last year with the rate of death at 18.5 deaths per every 1,000 travellers.
Globally, the majority of the estimated 5,350 deaths were recorded in the Mediterranean, the most deadly region, followed by Southeast Asia (mostly in the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea, Malaysia and Thailand) which saw at least 800 deaths this year.
Reacting to the 2015 figures, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said: “It is shocking and inexcusable that desperate migrants and refugees have lost their lives in record numbers this year, when they should not. The international community must act now to stop this trend against desperate migrants.”
850,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece
IOM Greece reported that 106,776 migrants crossed into the Greek islands during the month of December, an average of over 3,400 per day. Total migrant inflows through the blue borders of Greece approached 850,000 arrivals for the year.
Over 800 migrants or refugees lost their lives on the Eastern Mediterranean route in 2015, including one four-year-old girl during the year’s final hours at the Kara Tepe reception area on the Island of Lesvos. She reportedly suffered from meningitis and died in a nearby hospital.
The New Year began with the death of a two-year-old child as the Hellenic Coast Guard rescued 39 migrants from a boat which capsized off Agathonisi Island.
IOM estimates just over 5,000 migrants and refugees crossed into Greece during the first three days of 2016; 41 per cent were from Syria, 37 per cent from Afghanistan, 12 per cent from Iraq, 6 per cent from Iran, 2 per cent from Palestine and 2 per cent other nationalities.
IOM Turkey reported statistics from the Turkish Coast Guard Command that totally 279 migrants or refugees perishing in Turkish waters in 2015, 71 of them in December alone. IOM Turkey said 18 migrants or refugees lost their lives in the week of 14-20 December 18; during the following week (21-27 December) another 44 migrants lost their lives.
Another migration tragedy off Turkey
The migration tragedies continue in the Mediterranean Sea, as more and more people are struggling to escape from violence and poverty.
Irish daily, Independent, reported today that Turkey’s gendarmerie said it found the bodies of 21 migrants and refugees, three of them children, at two separate locations on the Aegean coast on Tuesday after their boat apparently capsized as they tried to reach the Greek island of Lesvos.
Eleven of the bodies were discovered on the shoreline in the district of Ayvalik, while ten others were found in the district of Dikili, a gendarmerie official in the local headquarters told Reuters.