Number of migrants decreases, but death toll rises in the Mediterranean Sea

Rodrigo Avellaneda/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
(Photo by Rodrigo Avellaneda/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

According to the International Organization on Migration (IOM), over 290.000 arrivals have been counted in 2016, as opposed to over 350.000 during the same period in 2015. However, despite the declining number of arrivals, deaths on route to Europe have gone up. 3,168 people are dead or missing as of 31 August 2016, compared to around 2800 that were recorded in 2015 around this time.

These deaths have occurred on the Mediterranean Sea. The Central Mediterraenan Route, from North Africa to Italy, is by far the deadliest, accounting for 2731 deaths. Worldwide, 4254 deaths have been recorded by the IOM’s missing migrants project. However, the actual data may be much higher as the IOM states that reliable data are hard to come by.

The news comes as Turkey Minister of EU affairs Omer Celik ensured EU Foreign Ministers this weekend that Turkey would uphold the migration deal. The deal, which allows ‘irregular migrants’ in Greece to be sent back to Turkey, has been controversial since its inception. The Foreign Minister of Egypt stated that the pressure of arrivals on his country had increased because the EU-Turkey deal. It shows that alternative routes are emerging that may be more risky; the sea journey from Egypt is considered more dangerous and longer than the journey from Turkey to Greece.

European member states have declared other measures that will mean a harder stance against refugees and migrants. France, for example, declared that it will close the camp in Calais know as “the Jungle”, where people gather in hope of crossing to the United Kingdom. The measures have thus far been unsuccessful in reducing the death toll.

The NGO Oxfam calls for a global response to decrease the number of deaths. The Summit for Refugees and Migrants is set to take place at the UN Headquarters in New York on 19 September 2016. However, Oxfam called the preliminary negotiations “disappointing”.