CAIRO (AP) — Last year was the deadliest for migrants in the Middle East and North Africa since 2017, the United Nations said Tuesday. About 3,800 people died on migrants’ sea and land routes within and from the region, according to data released by the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project.
The tally is an 11% increase compared to the 3,428 deaths recorded in 2021, and the highest since 2017, when the project documented the death of 4,255 people in the region.
“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,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s director for the region known by its acronym MENA.
The data show that the region accounted for more than half of the 6,877 deaths the project documented across the world. The project, however, said the true tally is likely much higher than the 3,789 documented fatalities, given the scarcity of official data and limited access to land routes in the region for civil society and international organizations.
On the region’s land routes, the IOM’s project documented over 1,025 deaths, while the rest occurred on sea routes to Europe, particularly in the East Mediterranean, which is one of the deadliest in the world.
The figures showed that most deaths on land took place in war-torn Yemen, where the IOM says “targeted violence against migrants has intensified.”
At least 795 people, mostly Ethiopians, lost their lives on a route between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the IOM’s project said. Most of the deaths occurred in Yemen’s northern province of Saada, a stronghold for the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
East African migrants used to cross the Bab-Al Mandab, the 31-mile (50-kilometer) strait separating Djibouti and Yemen, on small boats, aiming to cross Yemen into neighboring Saudi Arabia and then move on to other wealthy Arab Gulf states in search of work.
Libya, which has in recent years become a transit point for Europe-bound migrants who fled wars and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, recorded 117 deaths on land routes, followed by 54 fatalities in neighboring Algeria, the data showed.
The IOM’s report highlighted an increasing attempts of sea crossing from Lebanon to Greece. It said at least 174 people reportedly dead last year.