IOM: Migrant deaths in Middle East hit 5-year record in 2022

Tuesday June 13 2023

A crowded boat full of immigrants captured by the navy off the coast of Sicily, Italy on June 30, 2014. PHOTO | AFP


Nearly 3,800 people died in migration attempts throughout the Middle East and North Africa last year, a record high since 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

"The 3,789 deaths recorded in 2022 was 11 per cent higher than the previous year," the IOM said in a statement, pointing to the previous record of 4,255 deaths in 2017.

The region "accounted for more than half of the total 6,877 deaths recorded worldwide" by the IOM's Missing Migrants Project.

"The scarcity of official data... suggests that the actual number of deaths on migratory routes within and from the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA region) is likely much higher than reported, and most of those who die are unidentified," it added.

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"This alarming death toll on migration routes within and from the MENA region demands immediate attention and concerted efforts to enhance the safety and protection of migrants," Othman Belbeisi, the IOM's MENA regional director, said in the statement.


He called on "increased international and regional cooperation as well as resources to address this humanitarian crisis and prevent further loss of lives".

"A total of 1,028 deaths were recorded on land routes throughout the region, with the majority concentrated in Yemen, where targeted violence against migrants has intensified," the agency said.

"At least 795 people, believed to be mostly Ethiopians, lost their lives on the route between Yemen and Saudi Arabia," it added.

"On sea routes from MENA to Europe last year, an increasing number of deadly incidents took place after boats left Lebanon," IOM said.

At least 174 deaths were recorded last year on such incidents after boats departed from Lebanon to head to Greece and Italy.

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According to the IOM's website, 2,406 migrants were killed or went missing while attempting the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing last year, a 16.7 increase compared to 2021.

Since the start of this year, 1,166 people have died or disappeared on the same route, the website said.