Spotlight On... Migrants at Sea

“Why do people risk their lives and the lives of their families, over and over, every hour of every day when the best that awaits them is a frosty welcome? The answer is simple: Desperation. They fear staying in a land where they face persecution, or where their family starves. That desperation makes the risk of death a gamble they believe worth taking.” 

- IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

Europe is the world’s most dangerous destination for “irregular” migrants, IOM's research has found, costing the lives of over 3,000 individuals this year alone. In September of this year, 500 migrants were deliberately killed by smugglers after they sabotaged their boat as they made their way towards the Italian coastline. Speaking to the predominantly Palestinian and Syrian witnesses that were saved by the Italian Mare Nostrum rescue operation, IOM heard testimonies of extreme conditions at sea and of the desperation that drove them to make the perilous journey.

This week, the UK Government announced its decision not to support future search and rescue operations of migrants crossing the Mediterranean claiming that such actions are a 'pull' factor, encouraging more migrants to take the dangerous trip. In reality, death is often a risk many migrants are prepared to face in order to escape conflict, famine or even the absence of prospects for a better life.

The IOM Report “Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration” (October 2014) and Missing Migrants Project highlights these migrant stories and provides the world’s most comprehensive tally to date of migrant fatalities across land and sea.

Access the incidents, data, infographics, and stories here: Missing Migrants Project

To read the IOM Director General’s recent opinion piece in the Europe’s World Autumn Issue on why Europe needs to embrace migration, rather than restrict it, click here.  

Latest News: IOM Applauds Italy’s Life-Saving Mare Nostrum Operation: “Not a Migrant Pull Factor”  (October 31, 2014)

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