1154 GMT July 04, 2022
More than 3,000 people died or went missing while attempting to cross the Central and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic last year to Europe. This is according to a new report released by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
UNHCR called for urgent support to prevent deaths and protect refugees and asylum seekers who are embarking on dangerous journeys by land and sea, the agency’s official website reported.
Of the 2021 total, 1,924 people were reported dead or missing on the Central and Western Mediterranean routes, while an additional 1,153 perished or went missing on the Northwest African maritime route to the Canary Islands. The number of those dead and missing reported in 2020 was 1,776 for the three routes. Alarmingly, since the beginning of the year, an additional 478 people have also died or gone missing at sea.
Most of the sea crossings took place in packed, unseaworthy, inflatable boats – many of which capsized or were deflated leading to the loss of life. The sea journey from West African coastal states such as Senegal and Mauritania to the Canary Islands is long and perilous and can take up to 10 days. Many boats drifted off course or otherwise went missing without a trace.
Land routes also continue to be highly dangerous, where even greater numbers may have died on journeys through the Sahara Desert and remote border areas, in detention centres, or while in the captivity of smugglers or traffickers. Among the litany of abuses reported by people traveling these routes are: Extrajudicial killings, unlawful and arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour, slavery, forced marriage and other gross human rights violations.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related border closures that continued in 2021 have also impacted movements towards North Africa and European coastal countries, with many desperate refugees and migrants turning to smugglers to facilitate these perilous journeys.
UNHCR warns that continued political instability and conflicts, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions as well as the impact of climate change may increase displacement and dangerous onward movements.