The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants Project recorded 441 migrant deaths in the Central Mediterranean. Which in the first quarter of 2023, the most since 2017.
The growing loss of life on the world’s most dangerous maritime crossing coincides with complaints of delays. In state-led rescue interventions and impediments to NGO SaR vessel operations in the central Mediterranean.
“The ongoing humanitarian crisis in the central Mediterranean is intolerable.” States António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration. “With over 20,000 deaths on this route since 2014, I fear these deaths have become normalised.” States must take action. Human lives are being lost as a result of delays and gaps in state-led SAR.”
Delays in state-led rescues on the Central Mediterranean route played a role in at least six accidents this year, killing at least 127 people. At least 73 migrants were killed because there was no response to a seventh case.
Recently, NGO-led SAR operations have been significantly reduced.
The Libyan Coast Guard fired rounds into the air on March 25. When the NGO rescue ship Ocean Viking was responding to a report of a rubber boat in distress. Separately, on March 26, another vessel, the Louise Michel, arrested in Italy after rescuing 180 people at sea. Mimicking an earlier example in which the Geo Barents was seized and later released.
“Saving lives at sea is a legal obligation for governments,” Vitorino said. “We need proactive state-led coordination in search and rescue operations.” We call on states to collaborate and work together to decrease deaths along migratory routes. Guided by the spirit of responsibility-sharing and solidarity.”
The 441 deaths recorded in the first three months of the year are most certainly an undercount of the total number of migrant people killed in the Central Mediterranean. The Missing Migrants Project is also looking at stories of unseen shipwrecks. Which are incidents where vessels are reported missing but there are no records of survivors, remains, or SAR activities.
More than 300 persons on board the ships are still missing.