Nearly 3,800 people died on migration routes within and from the Middle East and North Africa last year, the highest number recorded there since 2017, according to data published on 13th June by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The startling figures come amidst a deal struck between Tunisia and the EU (as well as Italy) to curb the numbers of Africans leaving its shores but was followed by the tragic news of a boat capsizing off the coast of Greece with around 700 on board, many of them feared dead.
The victims, nearly all of them men from Afghanistan and Pakistan, drowned when the large trawler they were travelling in capsized off the southern Peloponnese when most of the migrants on the top deck moved to one side of the vessel.
Remarkably, the ship had set off from eastern Libya and was heading for Italy which raises concerns over whether Italian authorities had refused to allow it to dock.
The United Nations migration agency’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) recorded 3,789 deaths in 2022 along sea and land routes in the region, including crossings of the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea.
It said the recorded death toll, which was 11% higher than that compiled in 2021 and the highest since the 4,255 documented six years ago, was likely much higher in reality due to scarce official data and limited access to migration routes for civil society and international organisations.
“This alarming death toll on migration routes within and from the MENA region demands immediate attention and concerted efforts to enhance the safety and protection of migrants,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.