GENEVA/ROME, MARCH 31 – IOM reports that 27,850 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 29 March, over 80 percent arriving in Italy and the rest in Spain and Greece. This compares with 165,697 through the first 89 days of 2016. 655 migrants died.
IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo reported Thursday that on Tuesday, 28 March, the Iuventa ship of the German CSO “Jugend Retted” rescued 141 migrants, who were attempting to cross the Mediterranean crammed on a rubber dinghy. Their craft began to take on water and sink slowly. Many of those on board had fallen in the water and were trying to stay afloat. The Iuventa transferred 140 survivors onto the Italian Coastguard’s Unit “Dattilo” ship, while one other migrant – a 16-year-old Gambian boy found unconscious during the operation – was transferred onto the Spanish “Canarias”. That ship, operating under the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, had a larger medical team on-board to assist the young migrant.
On Tuesday night the Canarias brought the Gambian teen to Lampedusa, where – still in shock – he met IOM and other organizations to reconstruct the incident. He said he believed there had been about 147 people on board the sinking dinghy, and thought he was the sole survivor. IOM now calculates there remain five people still missing.
Di Giacomo further reported that on 30 March, more than 1,100 people arrived in Italy, figures that are not included in the Italy arrivals total of 23,125 (see chart above) reported by Italy’s Ministry of the Interior. IOM calculates arrivals to Italy this year through 29 days of March already exceed three-month arrival totals to Italy from either of the last three years.
IOM Libya’s Christine Petré reported that on Tuesday (28 March), 140 migrants were rescued off Zuwara – four women and 136 men. That same day, 85 migrants were rescued off Az Zawiyah – three women and 82 men. The remains of four migrants were retrieved during the course of these same incidents. The following day (Wednesday 29 March), remains of three other migrants were recovered on Sabrathah: two men and one woman.
This makes the total for this year 3,682 migrants rescued and 171 bodies retrieved.
On 30 March, IOM Libya reported that it helped 171 stranded Nigerien migrants including one woman and one unaccompanied minor to return home to Niger from Libya.
The charter, which is the third flight to Niger, was coordinated with the Libyan authorities, the Nigerien embassy in Tripoli and IOM Niger. “This charter flight involved migrants from three different locations, city premises and two detention centres, making it particularly challenging considering the security situation in the country,” explained IOM Libya’s Programme Officer Ashraf Hassan.
Additional assistance, including clothes and shoes, was provided to 95 migrants from two separate detention centres in Libya.
Furthermore, nine of the most vulnerable cases on the flight, including both the woman and the unaccompanied minor, were allocated reintegration assistance which will be provided with the assistance of IOM Niger.
In 2016, IOM Libya assisted 2,775 migrants to return home. Already this year, IOM Libya has helped 1,795 stranded migrants return to their countries of origin. The return assistance to Niger was funded by the UK Foreign Office and the Government of the Netherlands as part of IOM’s return assistance programme.
Last year at this time, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project recorded 740 Mediterranean fatalities, nearly half of those occurring off Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 2017, so far 13 fatalities have been recorded on this route, including 11 recorded last weekend off western Turkey, with 47 recorded off Spain and 595 recorded in the waters between Libya and Italy. These data do not include seven bodies recovered this week in Libya.
Although deaths on the Mediterranean Sea remain quite high through the first three months of 2017, IOM data indicate fatalities at the beginning of this year are not the highest recorded during the current emergency. In 2015, 488 men, women and children were reported lost on the Mediterranean through March 31, while the following winter 749 fatalities were recorded in the Mediterranean through March 31. (@OnuItalia)