Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 167,724 in 2017; Deaths Reach 3,095

Humanitarian Emergencies, Missing Migrants, Refugee and Asylum Issues

Geneva – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 167,724 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 13 December, with just over 70 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 358,018 arrivals across the region through the same period last year.

IOM Rome reported Thursday (14 December) that according to Ministry of Interior figures, 118,010 men, women and children have arrived in Italy this year. With just over two weeks remaining in 2017, these totals indicate total arrivals this year are expected to be well short of the 181,436 who arrived in 2016, by an estimated 35 per cent, given current December arrival rates.  This month new arrivals are averaging fewer than 80 migrants per day; that compares with 260 per day in December 2016 and 310 per day in December 2015 (see chart below).

IOM Spain reported that total arrivals at sea in 2017 are now at 20,473 men, women and children being rescued in Western Mediterranean waters. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reported this week confirmation of four more deaths in the Western Mediterranean: the Spanish Coastguard reported two missing and one dead in the Alboran Sea on 13 December, plus MMP added one case from 27 November, of a migrant who died in a ferry bound for mainland Spain in Port of Melilla.

There were no new reports of deaths in the Central Mediterranean Sea route.

On Thursday (14 December) IOM Athens’ Kelly Namia reported at least five incidents off the island of Lesvos, Samos and Leros that required search and rescue operations. The Hellenic Coast Guard managed to rescue some 200 migrants and transferred them to the respective islands.

Since 1 August, Namia reports 16,769 men, women and children have entered Greece by sea via the Eastern Mediterranean or almost 50 per cent more migrants than entered (11,405) during all of 2017’s first seven months. Namia further reported that 576 migrants or refugees entered Greece by sea during the dates 11-13 December, or nearly 200 per day.

Through 13 December, the total number of sea arrivals to Greek territory is 27,598. If that average holds through the month’s 18 remaining days, 2017 is likely to see the lowest total of sea migrants arriving irregularly to Greece in the last four years (see chart below).

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reported worldwide deaths have reached 5,323 men, women and children during migration in 2017.

In the Western Mediterranean, MMP reported the Spanish Salvamento Marítimo has recorded testimonies of 32 migrants rescued from a sinking boat on 13 December, reporting that two people went missing in the Alboran Sea between Spain and Morocco during their voyage. In another rescue operation on the same day (13 December), the body of a migrant was found in a boat, five nautical miles west of Alboran Island. The Spanish Coastguard rescued 68 survivors from this boat.

Additionally, reports emerged of the death of a young man inside a container in a ship bound for mainland Spain in Port of Melilla on 27 November. Since 1 January 2017, IOM has recorded the deaths of 210 people in the Western Mediterranean route to Spain – a number that surpasses the total number of deaths recorded in the Western Mediterranean for all of 2016, which totalled 128.

In the Middle East, three migrants died in a vehicle accident on 4 December 15 km from Murchehkhort, in Isfahan (Iran). Additionally, the MMP team recorded cumulative data of deaths confirmed between 1 January and 4 December 2017 on the Iran-Afghanistan border: 97 Afghan migrants reportedly died in vehicle accidents at various locations this year.

On the US/Mexico border, 14 migrants died of hypothermia due to extremely low temperatures in the past two weeks. On 7 December, a Mexican man was found dead in a ranch near Eagle Pass, Texas, while remains of another man of unknown nationality were discovered on a ranch near Norias, in Kenedy County (Texas).

On 8 December, a Guatemalan national suffering from hypothermia passed away in the Big Bend area, near Marfa, Texas. On 9 December, the remains of one migrant were found on the Mexican side of the border, in Nogales, Sonora (Mexico).
The Webb County Medical Examiner reported that an additional 10 migrants have died from hypothermia in various locations in Texas between 1 and 13 December. During this period, Missing Migrants Project also recorded the death of a migrant due to unknown causes in a ranch near Falfurrias, Texas, on 7 December.

MMP 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:
Dimitrios Tsagalas, IOM Cyprus, Tel: + 22 77 22 70, E-mail:
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email:
Hicham Hasnaoui at IOM Morocco, Tel: + 212 5 37 65 28 81, Email:
Kelly Namia, IOM Greece, Tel: +30 210 991 2174, Email:
Julia Black, IOM GMDAC, Berlin, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email:
Christine Petré, IOM Libya, Tel: +216 29 240 448, Email:
Ana Dodevska, IOM Spain, Tel: +34 91 445 7116, Email: