UN documents 441 migrant deaths in central Mediterranean in three months


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has documented 441 migrant deaths in the central Mediterranean in the first quarter of 2023.

According to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, more than 20,000 migrants have died on the central Mediterranean route since 2014, with the January-March 2023 period the deadliest first quarter on record since 2017. 

“The persisting humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean is intolerable,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino. “States must respond. Delays and gaps in state-led SAR [search and rescue operations] are costing human lives.”

“With more than 20,000 deaths recorded on this route since 2014, I fear that these deaths have been normalized,” he warned.

Delays in state-led rescues on the central Mediterranean route were a factor in at least six incidents this year leading to the death of at least 127 people, the IOM said. 

“The complete absence of response to a seventh case claimed the lives of at least 73 migrants,” it said in a statement, adding that nongovernmental organizations’ search and rescue efforts have markedly diminished in recent months.

In February dozens of migrants died following a tragic shipwreck off the Libyan coast. The boat carrying 80 people had departed Qasr al-Akhyar, some 75 kilometers east of the capital, Tripoli, and was heading to Europe.

The Missing Migrants Project is also investigating several reports of invisible shipwrecks — cases in which boats are reported missing, where there are no records of survivors.

According to the project, the fate of more than 300 people aboard those vessels remains unclear.

“Over the Easter weekend, 3,000 migrants reached Italy, bringing the total number of arrivals so far this year to 31,192 people,” the IOM said.

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