One thousand three hundred eighty-six migrants have died in Africa this year, according to a new report by the Missing Migrants Project (MMP). These deaths — from starvation, dehydration, and lack of access to medicine– are inflicted by the traffickers migrants hire for transport, smuggling practices, and the physical terrain.
The search for jobs is a “major driver” for migration within Africa, according to Brookings, although reasons forcing people to migrate may vary and include conflict or political instability.
The MMP report is based on survey data conducted by the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4MI). The data focuses on the number of deaths on smuggler routes and does not include subsequent fatalities. At least 6,615 migrants have died within the last five years: 1,275 men, 534 women, and 336 children, according to the MMP estimates.
“People who witness fellow migrants die often have no way to report what they have seen, not to mention experiencing significant psychosocial stress,” Frank Laczko, Director of International Organization of Migration (IOM), stated in the report. “When you consider that survey results may be the only evidence of these deaths, it is clear that these records represent the tip of the iceberg and that the human loss of life is of unknown proportions.”
Coverage of migrants in North Africa tends to focus on those who arrive in Europe or those who die crossing the Mediterranean. According to an IOM report, 115,00 migrants have arrived in Europe from North Africa since 2017, while 13,500 have died at sea. But now, organizations are starting to gather data on migrant deaths on the continent.
In 2017, 2.5 million migrants traveled to East Africa. However, North Africa — Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya — remains the destination for those heading to Europe. In 2016, 65 percent of migrants interviewed for the IOM report said they witnessed one or more deaths during their journey, mainly in Libya, which is the deadliest route.
The main paths to Libya are through Sudan and Niger. Along the way, migrants risk robbery or being abandoned by their smugglers, who can demand forced labor or sex as payment, the IOM said. Once in Libya, people can be kidnapped, beaten, forced into labor or ransomed. The abuse of migrants is part of Libya’s larger humanitarian crisis after seven years of war.
“Tens of thousands of displaced people have been living in overcrowded shelters, sharing public bathrooms and kitchens,” Ursula Mueller, United Nations Deputy Relief Coordinator, said earlier this month. “Thousands of migrants of various nationalities are kept in unspeakable conditions in congested detention centers.”