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IOM says 2023 deadliest year as 8,541 migrants drown

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IOM says 2023 deadliest year as 8,541 migrants drown

File: A capsize boat with immigrants

Published By: Ayorinde Oluokun

By Cecilia Ologunagba

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said 8,541 migrants drowned while on the move in 2023, thus making the year the deadliest year on record for migrants.

One in three migrant deaths happens while people flee conflict, and more than two in three migrants whose deaths have been documented remain unidentified, IOM said in a report published on Tuesday

According to the UN agency, nearly 60 percent of deaths in 2023 were linked to drowning.

So far in 2024, the trends are just as alarming. Along the Mediterranean sea route alone – while arrivals this year are significantly lower (16,818) compared to the same period in 2023 (26,984) – the number of deaths is nearly as high as before, with 956 registered since Jan. 1.

IOM noted that the number of unidentified deaths remains high – more than two in three migrants – leaving families and communities to grapple with the lack of clarity about what happened to a friend or relative.

To date, the UN agency’s Missing Migrant Project data shows that the remains of 26,666 people who died while migrating have not been recovered.

“Despite the many lives lost whose identities remain unknown, we know that almost 5,500 females have perished on migration routes during the last 10 years and the number of identified children is nearly 3,500,” Ugochi Daniels, IOM Deputy Director General for Operations, said commenting on the recent findings.

However, the report suggests the true number of deaths of women and children is likely far higher: there are more than 37,000 dead for whom no information on sex or age is available.

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More than one in three deceased migrants whose origin could be identified come from countries in conflict or with large refugee populations, says the study.

That highlights dangers faced by those attempting to flee conflict zones without safe pathways, the agency underscored.

The deadliest route is the Central Mediterranean, where at least 23,092 people have died since 2014.

“The toll on vulnerable populations and their families urges us to turn the attention on the data into concrete action,” Ms. Daniels said.

She advocated for more detailed information collection that would facilitate creating safer migration routes for people fleeing conflict and distress in their home countries.

IOM has adopted a new Strategic Plan 2024-2028 that aims to save lives and protect people on the move as its first objective.

To do so, the UN migration agency is calling on countries and other partners to work jointly to end migrant deaths and address the impacts of the tens of thousands of lives lost on migratory routes worldwide.  (NAN) (


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