GENEVA, MARCH 10 – IOM reported on Friday that 19,567 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 8 March, over 80 percent arriving in Italy and the rest in Spain and Greece. This compares with 143,544 through the first 68 days of 2016.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reports the same number of Mediterranean deaths – 521 – as were reported on Tuesday (7/3). The total of 521 does not include three deaths on Wednesday that were reported on Friday morning (10/03) in the Libyan coastal city of Al Khums. These deaths so far this year compare with 471 during the same period in 2016.
Rome spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo on Thursday supplied recent figures indicating that through February 28, most of nearly 13,500 migrants leaving Libya by sea during 2017’s initial two months came from just four countries – Guinea, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Bangladesh – which combined accounted for 6,727 migrants rescued at sea. Other countries showing a growing presence on this route were Morocco, Iraq and Cameroon.
While there has been an increase in arrivals of migrants coming from Western African countries, Di Giacomo said that 2017 arrivals from Bangladesh, at 1,303 migrants (almost entirely male), is a significant increase. This trend was also apparent last year, he added, when Italian authorities recorded 8,131 Bangladeshi arrivals, up from 4,386 in 2014 and 5,040 in 2015.
“In recent weeks IOM field staff have talked to Bangladeshi migrants disembarking at landing points in Sicily and Apulia,” noted Federico Soda, Director of IOM’s Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome. “Some of them said that they had their trip to Libya organized by an ‘agency’ that provided them with a working visa at a cost of USD 3,000 – 4,000. From Bangladesh, they first travelled to Dubai and Turkey, and finally reached Libya by plane. At the airport, an ‘employer’ met them and took their documents. Many of them lived in Libya for a year and a half before crossing the Mediterranean to Italy.”
“Others had been living in Libya for up to four years. They witnessed the same recruiting tactics with a slight difference: victims departed from Bangladesh and travelled through Turkey before eventually reaching Libya by plane. In general, to reach Europe, Bangladeshi labour migrants have to rely on agents who organize their travel from Dhaka,” he added.
According to information gathered by IOM, Bangladeshi migrants pay up to USD 10,000 to reach Libya. The price does not include the journey from Libya to Italy, which they reported to IOM costs approximately USD 700. IOM helped 27 Bangladeshis to voluntarily return to their country this week, flying from Libya to Dhaka on a commercial flight. According to Bangladeshi media, these individuals – all rescued at sea – had been brought back to Libya by Libyan Coast Guard vessels and spent months in detention before IOM could facilitate their repatriation.
Also on Thursday, Christine Petré of IOM Libya wrote that IOM’s team continues to sift through reports of violence against migrants across Libya’s coastal region. Details of reports from Subratah of 22 migrants killed either in a shoot-out between rival smuggling gangs or in a confrontation between the migrants and smugglers remain unclear and contradictory. IOM has not been able to speak to any survivors who have been able to offer details on why or how the exchange of fire occurred but is trying to learn more to gain a clearer picture of the events.
Petré also added information to reports IOM released earlier this month on over one hundred bodies found buried near the town of Bani Walid over the past three months. “Bodies are buried without their handlers identifying either their identities or nationalities. Their deaths are sometimes related to falling from the trucks that carry them towards the coast. Many are undocumented and it is not uncommon that bodies are found along the desert road. Migrants who fall off the trucks and get lost in the desert are not likely to survive. Many of them come from African countries.” (@OnuItalia)