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More than 40,000 refugees and migrants have died since 2000 in what the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) terms the “fatal journeys”.
IOM’s new report titled the “Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration” is the world’s most comprehensive tally to date of migrant fatalities across land and sea.
The organisation is urging the world’s governments to address what it describes as “an epidemic of crime and victimization.”
“Our message is blunt: migrants are dying who need not,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. “It is time to do more than count the number of victims. It is time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants.”
According to the report compiled under IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, Europe is the world’s most dangerous destination for “irregular” migration, costing the lives of over 3,000 migrants this year.
In October 2013 over 400 migrants died in two shipwrecks near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
It is estimated that over 22,000 migrants have died trying to reach Europe since 2000, mainly on treacherous routes across the Mediterranean Sea.
“People are already looking for information about missing migrants on Facebook. We know as well that people are trafficked around the world using Facebook and other social media,” said IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle.
“We want to turn #MissingMigrants into a powerful voice to warn future migrants against taking these high risk journeys. It is not doing it with a poster or a radio spot, but with the most persuasive means out there – the voices of survivors and the family members of missing migrants,” he added.
According to the “Fatal Journeys”, since 2000, nearly 6,000 migrants have died along the US-Mexico border. Some 3,000 deaths occurred from diverse migration routes such as Africa’s Sahara Desert and the waters of the Indian Ocean.
The report however warns that the true number of fatalities is likely to be considerably higher.
“Although vast sums of money are spent collecting migration and border control data, very few agencies collect and publish data on migrant deaths,” said IOM Head of Research Frank Laczko.
Many deaths occur in remote regions of the world and are never recorded. No organization at the global level is currently responsible for systematically monitoring the number of deaths which occur.
Some experts now believe that for every dead body discovered, there are at least two others that are never recovered.
“The paradox is that at a time when one in seven people around the world are migrants, we are seeing an extraordinarily harsh response to migration in the developed world,” said Mr Swing. “Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers, feeding an unscrupulous trade that threatens the lives of desperate people. We need to put an end to this cycle. Undocumented migrants are not criminals. They are human beings in need of protection and assistance, and deserving respect.”