At least twice as many migrants die attempting to reach the Mediterranean as those who die attempting to cross the sea, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
While the Mediterranean remains a very deadly route for irregular migration, Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the land journey in Africa is far more dangerous for migrants.
“We assume that at least two times as many people probably die on their way to the Mediterranean Sea as in the sea itself,” said Cochetel, adding that the number could be higher but exact figures are not available.
Dehydration, starvation, transportation accidents, violence and illness were identified by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as the most common causes of death on land routes in 2018.
Every year, thousands of migrants embark on the journey toward the Mediterranean, in an attempt to reach Europe. The route from Niger to Libya is one of the main routes African migrants use to reach North Africa before attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
“We walked for hours under the scorching desert sun with no water or idea where we were heading,” said 27-year-old Amadou, a Malian irregular migrant who was recently rescued from the Sahara desert.
Many migrants are exploited and beaten on the land routes, with some even being killed for their organs. Children are also vulnerable to extreme conditions in harsh climates, such as in the Sahara.
If they reach the Mediterranean, they face further physical risks. Over 1,000 migrants and refugees died on the three main Mediterranean Sea migration routes between 1 January and 3 October 2019, according to a report by the IOM. Since 2014, more than 1,000 deaths in the Mediterranean Sea are recorded every year, with a total of over 18,960 deaths over the last six years.