Europe, Globe, United Kingdom

Migrants dead or missing: no faces or figures

Little is known about the identities of the 30,510 deceased migrants recorded by the Missing Migrants Project in the last five years. It is only known that almost 1,600 were children, 1,700 women and about 5,000 men.  It is assumed that they left their homes and families seeking to improve their economic situation, to move away from wars or from environmental problems.


Mario Muñoz Lozano


In the case of many people, their remains were recovered days, weeks or months after their deaths en route, on many occasions it was impossible for the authorities to determine the causes of death. The bodies of many others have not been discovered or recovered.

This heart-breaking story is based on recent data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In the Mediterranean, several reports of shipwreck survivors indicate that, being cautious in handling the figures, some 11,500 lives have been lost on the high seas in the past five years, and the remains of those people have never been found.

The Missing Migrants Project (MMP) is a joint initiative of the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) and the IOM Media and Communications Division, which receives information from a wide variety of sources, some unofficial.

The MMP counts the dead migrants at the external borders of the states or in the process of migration to an international destination, regardless of their legal status. It only records those migrants who die during their trip to a different country from their country of residence.

According to IOM, these figures are minimal estimates, taking into account the lack of official sources of information and the absence of details on most of the deaths on those trips, many of them on the high seas or in remote jungle areas.

The data warn that between January 2014 and December 2018 there were more than 19,000 deaths and disappearances due to drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Rio Grande and especially in the Bay of Bengal, in addition to many other sea routes.

Another 3,800 people died from the harsh natural conditions on their migration route or various diseases combined with a lack of access to medicines.

The central Mediterranean route, between North Africa and Italy, remains the deadliest in that region. According to the MMP, in 2019 one in 33 people lost their lives trying to cross that way.

The director of the IOM Data Analysis Centre, Frank Laczko, has said that “if you come from a high-income country, efforts will be made to find and identify your body if you disappear. The same does not apply if you are an undocumented migrant.”

Dangerous routes

At least 800 people lost their lives crossing deserts, rivers and remote territories on different migration routes of the Americas in 2019, making that year one of the most fatal that have been recorded by the MMP.

Official government data and also journalistic and NGO reports indicate that this constitutes the highest number of documented deaths in the region since IOM began the search six years ago.

The GMDAC Director said on the issue that “these figures constitute a sad reminder that the lack of options for safe and legal mobility leads people to more invisible and risky roads, putting them in grave danger.”

At least 2,959 people lost their lives while migrating in the Americas in the last five years, of which more than 60 percent, at least 1,871, lost their lives on the border between Mexico and the United States.

More than a thousand deaths were recorded in the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean between 2014 and 2018, although the difficulty in obtaining reliable reports implies that the actual number of migrant deaths is probably much higher. Last year the highest number of fatalities was recorded on the border between the United States and Mexico, where 497 deaths were documented. Of these, 171 correspond to people who tried to cross the desert.

The main causes of the deaths that are recorded in the data bank of the Missing Migrants Project make reference to the risky natural and transport conditions that migrants must face when traveling irregularly. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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