Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

Globally the number of refugees and migrants who have died on irregular routes has increased by more than a fifth in the last year despite the public outcry over the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in the Mediterranean, Oxfam said today. In the Mediterranean, the number of people killed has increased by more than 10 percent since Alan died on 2 September 2015. These figures are proof that the current European approach to stop migration by deterrence is failing at the cost of thousands of lives, and that governments urgently need to correct their course.

Globally the number of refugees and migrants who have died on irregular routes has increased by more than a fifth in the last year despite the public outcry over the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in the Mediterranean, Oxfam said today. In the Mediterranean, the number of people killed has increased by more than 10 percent since Alan died on 2 September 2015. These figures are proof that the current European approach to stop migration by deterrence is failing at the cost of thousands of lives, and that governments urgently need to correct their course.

Across the world 5700 people have died or gone missing on irregular refugee and migrant routes since the body of the young Syrian boy washed up on a beach after his family tried to cross to Europe from Turkey. In the year before he died, 4664 deaths were recorded. This is an increase of 22.2%. The number of people who have died on refugee and migrant routes globally since the start of 2016 equates to one almost every 80 minutes.

In the Mediterranean, 4181 refugees and other migrants have died while trying to reach Europe since the death of Alan Kurdi, with 3713 deaths recorded the year before. This is an increase of 12.6%.

2016 has been a particularly deadly year: as of August, the number of people who died on the important Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy is almost the same as the number of people who died on that route in all of 2015.

The actual figures of people dying on irregular migration routes globally are likely to be significantly higher due to under reporting and data in many cases being unreliable or incomplete. For instance, estimates say the crossing of the Sahara to reach to Mediterranean coast in North Africa could be even more deadly than the following journey to Europe by sea.

Oxfam is calling on European leaders to commit to helping protect all people on the move, providing fair and transparent asylum procedures for people arriving onto its shores and expanding safe and regular options for people to travel to Europe. They must make sure they do not sell their failed approach as a solution to governments worldwide.

Two major meetings on the global refugee and migration crisis take place in New York later this month – the UN Summit for refugees and migrants and the Leaders’ Summit on refugees. Negotiations ahead of the UN Summit were held, but they were very disappointing, with many countries unwilling to do more to help. However, these summits are an important opportunity for European governments to put people before borders and make clear commitments to save lives and defend the rights of people on the move.

Natalia Alonso, Oxfam International’s Deputy Director for Campaigns and Advocacy, said:

“The images of Alan Kurdi’s body washed up in Turkey were heart-breaking and shocking. One year on, the situation is just getting worse. Thousands of deaths have been recorded in the Mediterranean since Alan Kurdi’s body was found.

The two upcoming summits in New York are key moments for Europe to fix its migration response. Negotiations ahead of the UN summit were disappointing as governments focused on self-interest, while more people died. European governments need to urgently change their approach, help host countries and protect migrants.”

Photographs of Alan Kurdi became headline news around the world a year ago. Independent research shared with Oxfam by the Visual Social Media Lab, based at the University of Sheffield in the UK, found a subsequent rise in interest in the refugee issue on Twitter, with four times as many tweets on the subject than in the year before. The #RefugeesWelcome hashtag began trending worldwide in the days after Alan Kurdi’s death and has been used 2.35 million times in the 12 months since.

This public outcry for more solidarity with refugees and other migrants should be a call to action for world leaders to help migrants.

Francesco D’Orazio, co-founder of audience intelligence firm Pulsar, which is a founding member of the Visual Social Media Lab, said:

“Our analysis shows a huge increase in awareness about the refugee crisis following Alan Kurdi’s death. More people are discussing the issues on social media and searching for information and news on Google.”

Oxfam’s Stand as One campaign calls for global action to welcome more refugees, prevent families from being separated and keep people fleeing their homes safe from harm. Already more than 212,000 people have taken actions with Oxfam, calling on world leaders to guarantee migrants and refugees safety, protection and a dignified future.

 

Notes

  • According to the International Organisation for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project, 3713 irregular migrants and refugees died while crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015. 4181 died on these routes between 1 September 2015 and 25 August 2016 (the time of writing). Globally, 4664 people died on irregular refugee and migrant routes around the world in the year before 31 August 2015, and 5700 people died since the tragic incident.
  • While the majority of deaths recorded by the IOM were people who drowned in the Mediterranean, other cases included people crossing the Sahara desert, drowning on boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, and while travelling on the top of trains in Mexico.
  • However, reliable data on the number of migrants killed while crossing the Sahara Desert have so far been unavailable. Based on interviews with migrants, the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4mi) argues it would be safe to assume that the number of migrants and refugees dying before reaching the shores of Egypt and Libya is even higher than the number of deaths at sea.
  • The Visual Social Media Lab brings together academics and industry researchers interested in analyzing social media images and their social impact. Three months after the death of Alan Kurdi, the lab published a widely cited report that sought to better understand the response to these images. The latest analysis identified 12.7 million tweets containing the word ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’ between 18 August 2014 and 1 September 2015. The figure rose to 50.4 million between 2 September 2015 and 21 August 2016 – a 397% increase. Read more about the methodology here [INSERT LINK – to come from Sarah] from 2 September or contact the Oxfam press office.
  • Pictures of migrants in Niger on their way to Europe, or on their way back from the Mediterranean coast, can be downloaded for free use on Oxfam Intermón’s website.
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