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2023 the deadliest year for migrants – IOM

12 March 20240 comments

More than 8,565 people died on migration routes across the world in 2023, the deadliest year on record for migrants, according to the United Nations migration.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said the number of migrant deaths recorded last year exceeded the number of dead and missing globally in the previous record year of 2016, when 8,084 people died.

Also, 2023’s death toll represents a 20 per cent rise on 2022’s figure.

IOM has described the statistics as “horrifying”.

“These horrifying figures collected by the Missing Migrants Project are also a reminder that we must recommit to greater action that can ensure safe migration for all, so that ten years from now, people aren’t having to risk their lives in search of a better one,” said IOM Deputy Director General Ugochi Daniels said.

The data is from the Missing Migrants Project, an IOM initiative that has recorded migrant deaths and disappearances since 2014.

The project found that the Mediterranean Sea crossing continues to be the deadliest route for migrants, with at least 3,129 deaths and disappearances recorded last year.

This is the highest death toll recorded in the Mediterranean since 2017. Regionally, unprecedented numbers of migrant deaths were recorded across Africa (1,866) and Asia (2,138). In Africa, most of these deaths occurred in the Sahara Desert and the sea route to the Canary Islands.

In Asia, hundreds of deaths of Afghan and Rohingya refugees fleeing their countries of origin were recorded last year.

“Ten years since the establishment of the Missing Migrants Project as the only open-access database on migrant deaths and disappearances, the project has documented more than 63,000 cases worldwide,” IOM said.

“The true figure, however, is estimated to be much higher due to challenges in data collection particularly in remote locations such as the Darien National Park in Panama and on maritime routes, where IOM regularly records reports of invisible shipwrecks where boats disappear without a trace.”

Established in 2014 following two devastating shipwrecks off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, the Missing Migrants Project is the only indicator measuring the level of ‘safety’ of migration in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  

Another upcoming report provides detailed analysis of missing migrants data from 2023 and key facts and figures on migrant deaths and disappearances over the last ten years.

It provides an opportunity for IOM and partners to assess ongoing work to expand safe and regular migration pathways, enhance search and rescue operations, and support affected individuals and families. IOM, alongside many other organizations, and as Coordinator of the UN Network on Migration, calls on governments and the international community to continue working together to prevent further loss of life and uphold the dignity and rights of all individuals.