Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 165,409 in 2017 with Major Uptick in Western Route

Humanitarian Emergencies, Missing Migrants, Refugee and Asylum Issues

Geneva – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 165,409 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 6 December, with nearly 20,000 of those arriving to Spain via the Western Mediterranean route. While the total number of arrivals to Europe across the Mediterranean is about half compared with the same period last year, the number of arrivals using the Western Mediterranean route to Spain is nearly triple that of last year, while deaths on the Western route have increased more than 40 per cent compared with 2016. 

IOM Spain’s Ana Dodevska reports that arrivals to Spain in 2017 through 7 December totalled 19,977.  This is a marked increase in use of the Spanish route, given that only 8,000 migrants entered Europe across the Mediterranean via Spain in all of 2016.  Already in 2017, 206 migrants died at sea using the Western Mediterranean route compared with 128 deaths along that route in all of last year.  

Arrivals by sea to Italy, primarily departing from Libya, remain about one-third lower than 2016, according to IOM, the UN Migration Agency’s Rome office.  According to official figures of the Italian Ministry of Interior, 117,121 migrants arrived by sea to Italy this year: nearly 33 per cent less than the 181,346 migrants who arrived to Italy in the same period in 2016.

IOM staff are deployed at the main landing points in Sicily (including Lampedusa), Calabria and Apulia and provide legal assistance to those arriving by sea, monitor the reception conditions and support the authorities in the identification of vulnerable groups.

By contrast, arrivals by sea to Greece across the Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey are significantly lower than last year.  Only 27,244 arrivals were reported to Greece as of 5 December, this year.  This compares with 173,614 sea arrivals in Greece in 2016.  

In Greece, IOM staff are present in the islands of Crete, Samos, Kos and Lesvos, working closely with authorities to identify vulnerable migrants including unaccompanied minors, elderly migrants, migrants with medical needs and families with children. Vulnerable groups are referred to authorities in order to be provided with the necessary care.

Worldwide, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) has recorded the deaths of 5,204 people during migration in 2017. In the Western Mediterranean, three people (including one woman) died when the boat in which they were travelling overturned in waters close to Larache, Morocco, on 4 December. The Moroccan authorities rescued 40 people. On the same day, one migrant died off the coast of Nerja, Spain.
On the US/Mexico border, the remains of one migrant were found in Tecate, Baja California (Mexico) on 30 November. Additionally, reports emerged of the death of a 33-year-old man from Ecuador who drowned when crossing the Río Bravo on 21 January near Laredo, Texas. In Central America, a 12-year-old boy was hit by a train in Tenosique, Tabasco (Mexico) on 28 November, after crossing the border with Guatemala.
Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on missing migrants are collected, click here.

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For more information, please contact:
Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email:
Mircea Mocanu, IOM Romania, Tel:  +40212115657, Email:
Dimitrios Tsagalas, IOM Cyprus, Tel: + 22 77 22 70, E-mail:
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email:
Kelly Namia, IOM Greece, Tel: +30 210 991 2174, Email:
Julia Black, IOM GMDAC, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email:
Abby Dwommoh, IOM Turkey, Tel: +90 312 454 3048, Email:
Christine Petré, IOM Libya, Tel: +216 29 240 448, Email:
Ana Dodevska, IOM Spain, Tel: +34 91 445 7116, Email:
Myriam Chabbi, IOM Tunisia, Tel: +216 71 860 312 ext 109, Mobile: +216 28 78 78 05, Email: