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At Least 60,000 Migrants Died or Went Missing in Past 20 Years

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2015 photo, a paramilitary police officer investigates the scene before carrying the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi from the sea shore, near the beach resort of Bodrum, Turkey.

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2015 photo, a paramilitary police officer investigates the scene before carrying the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi from the sea shore, near the beach resort of Bodrum, Turkey.

A report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found at least 60,000 migrants died or disappeared at sea or on land routes over the past two decades. IOM considers the real number to be much higher because many bodies are never found or identified.

The report said the majority of known deaths in the last two years have occurred in the Mediterranean region. The International Organization for Migration estimates 5,400 migrants globally died or were recorded as missing in 2015.

This year, IOM has documented more than 3,400 migrant deaths worldwide. Director of IOM’S Global Migration Data Analysis Center Frank Laczko said more than 80 percent of the deaths were people attempting to reach Europe by sea.

“The rate of death across the central Mediterranean route, we estimate is approximately one in 23 persons," he said. "The one in 23 persons who have tried to cross the central Mediterranean have died or are unaccounted for among migrants this year, which is a shocking statistic.”

The Turkey-EU agreement intended to provide legal migrant routes to Europe has largely choked off the eastern Mediterranean Sea route from Turkey to Greece. So most migrants are making the dangerous sea crossing from Libya to Italy. Laczko said the risk of death on the route has increased, but the actual volume of people crossing the Mediterranean has not increased as much as expected.

He told VOA there has not been a substantial increase in the number of people coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

“There has been fears that with the closing of the eastern Mediterranean route, we would see substantial increases in migrants turning to the central Mediterranean route," he said. "It still seems to be predominantly dominated by migrants from sub-Saharan African countries.”

Laczko said about 10 percent are from Nigeria, another 10 percent from Eritrea and most of the remaining migrants are from West and East Africa. He noted migrant death rates in southeast Asia are as high as those in the Mediterranean, though the volume of people crossing the sea in that region is lower.

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