2016 sees rise in numbers of dead or missing migrants
2017-01-15 10:00:23 -
By Staff Reporter

The number of refugees who died or are missing worldwide rose to 7,495 in 2016, according to a new report.

Provisional figures from the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project show 1,755 more migrants died last year compared to the 2015 figure of 5,740. 

Adding the 5,267 recorded in 2014 brings the total to 18,501 missing or dead in the last three years.

The IOM said the increase is mainly the result of more advanced research methods they adopted for the study, which also found that migrant routes grew more deadly during this period, especially along the central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Europe, where nearly 4,600 migrants perished in 2016.

“These data – 18,501 deaths over three years – are simply shocking,” said IOM director general William Lacy Swing. “That’s 1,096 days, according to the calendar – or almost 20 deaths per day. And we don’t believe we are anywhere near counting all of the victims. 
“We are past the time for counting. We must act to make migration legal, safe and secure for all.”

Joel Millman, an IOM staffer who documented fatalities last year in Europe, Africa and Latin America, said: “Migrants, no matter how poorly educated or poor they are, are in almost constant communication with someone following their progress.

“They may be using Twitter or Facebook to find others from their family or village already on the road, or to contact a smuggler. Many times it’s migrants themselves who are the first to report deaths of fellow travellers.”

With 57 deaths in 2016, Europe had 74 fewer than the number recorded in 2015. Causes of deaths, according to the IOM, included drowning, motor or train accident, exposure or hypothermia, fighting, robbery, plane stowaway, head injury from fall, and suicide.
The Mediterranean continues to see the highest number of dead or missing, but North Africa - from where many migrants cross the Mediterranean – and Latin America are danger spots.

Millman said migrants’ text and social media posts often stop when they are in danger, alerting relatives who quickly spread the word.
Sometimes those alerts lead to rescues, he added, though they are more likely to result in searches that confirm families’ worst fears.

Millman highlighted a case from July last year, whereby a 41-year-old Guatemalan woman was found dead by two Texas journalists near a highway in blazing summer heat. Government officials said she had been dead for six days but was the subject of a desperate search by her family during that time.

“During the summer, alerts like this are practically a daily occurrence, with entire websites and Facebook pages dedicated to finding people missing on the migrant trail,” said Millman. 

“And these are just the ones we know to follow in Spanish or English. There likely are others we aren’t yet aware of in other languages, from places like the Horn of Africa, west Africa or southeast Asia.”
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