Over 63,000 dead or missing in migration in last decade, IOM reports

GENEVA — The U.N. migration agency reported Tuesday that at least 63,285 people have died or gone missing on migration routes worldwide between 2014 and 2023, with the majority of deaths due to drowning.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a report indicating that the Mediterranean saw the highest number of deaths and disappearances, totaling 28,854, followed by Africa and Asia.

Drowning was linked to nearly 60% of documented deaths, and over a third of those identified came from conflict-ridden countries, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria, and Ethiopia.

2023 was the deadliest year for migrants in the past decade, with 8,541 deaths recorded, partly because of an increase in fatalities in the Mediterranean. “The increase in deaths is likely linked to the increase in departures and, correspondingly, shipwrecks, off the coast of Tunisia,” the report stated. It noted that at least 729 people died off the Tunisian coast in 2023, up from 462 in 2022, marking a shift from previous years where most Central Mediterranean deaths were off Libya’s coast.

As anti-immigration parties gain influence in Europe, governments have sought to reduce migration flows by offering financial support to North African nations like Tunisia and Egypt. This month, the European Union announced a €7.4 billion ($8 billion) funding package for Egypt, which Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni described as “the best way to address migratory flows.”

Countries including Italy, Hungary, and Britain have prioritized immigration reduction, while far-right parties, such as France’s National Rally led by Marine Le Pen, have risen in popularity.

Religious leaders, including Pope Francis, have advocated for greater compassion towards migrants, with the Pope calling for a pan-European migration response to prevent the Mediterranean from becoming “a sea of death.”