Normally, it is always quite difficult for people to picture the true scale of a crisis when it strikes. For example, the tens of thousands of migrants that have lost their lives on their way to Europe, seeking refuge from poverty and conflict. However, recently a German newspaper turned the mounting death tolls into something that would assist readers to conceptualize the pain.
The newspaper has published a list of about 33,000 people who have died trying to reach Europe. The newspaper has listed the age, names, gender and countries of origin as well as cause of death of every refugee and asylum seeker who has died trying to make it to Europe between 1993 and June 15,2017 in over 46 pages. The paper seeks to document those who have lost their lives as a consequence of the continent’s restrictive policies on its outer borders or within Europe.
Last year was the deadliest yet for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea and majority of people on the newspaper’s list drowned on the Sea trying to reach Europe. According to the UN International Organization for Migration(IOM), more than 5,000 people have died or gone missing during their journey to Europe. People have described the lengthy list as horrific, heartbreaking and shameful. According to the organization, a crackdown on the Western Balkan path and the EU-Turkey deal has forced migrants to opt for more dangerous routes to Europe.
“While overall numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean by the eastern route were reduced significantly in 2016 by the EU-Turkey deal, death rates have increased to 2.1 per 100 in 2017, relative to 1.2 in 2016,” the IOM said in a September report. However, this year, the UN’s refugee agency has recorded that 152,203 people have attempted to get to Europe by sea, 2,992 of which are feared to have drowned. Surprisingly, the list has been described as just “the tip of the iceberg” as it reflects less than half of migrants who have actually died attempting to reach Europe in the last couple of decades, said Geert Ates, director of the non-profit United for Intercultural Action, which compiled the list.
The list is nothing new since United has been compiling and releasing it to the public yearly since the 1990’s. “We had thousands of cases in the 1990s. We thought media would care, but nobody was interested when we published the first list, nor when we published 10,000,” Ates told Huff Post recently. “Now we have 30,000 names and all of a sudden everybody jumps on the list. I don’t know why.” “Once a year, we publish the list.
Once a year we make the call: People are dying at our borders, and no one does anything to stop it,” he added. The list is being considered only a fraction of the actual number since it’s quite challenging to track all the migrants who have died, whether they perished while crossing its borders on land or while travelling to its shores by sea. Furthermore, United’s list doesn’t even account for migrants who have died on the African continent, many of whom may have been journeying across countries toward Europe but perished before making it to the Mediterranean.
“Most probably thousands more are never found,” Ates said. “Many are frozen in mountains, or boats disappeared or smugglers let the boat sink.” “When a boat sinks, the survivors estimate how many they were on the boat, but that can well be wrong,” he added. “And their families will have no idea.” Even when a body is found, it’s another challenge to identify it, as many migrants travel without documents, with fake names, or have lost papers along the way, Ates noted.
Just a quick glimpse at United’s list shows just how hard naming the dead can be: The vast majority are listed as “N.N.” or “no name.” As the deaths has grown, efforts to account for them have gotten better. So far this year the UN’s IOM has accounted more than 3,000 migrants who have died on their way to Europe for different reasons. The UN’s findings largely match up with United’s, with a difference of a few hundred each year.
While the numbers on United’s list and in IOM’s reports are staggering, neither group can possibly capture every single death, Ates said. The director of United for Intercultural Action estimates that United’s numbers from its early years in the 1990’s accounted for only about 30 percent of actual deaths. Their network of partners was smaller then, and Google alerts didn’t exist, making tracking local newspaper reports of deaths harder. He is optimistic that with the recent added efforts, the figures are closer to capturing information on 80 percent of those who have died. In conclusion, for us the figures shouldn’t be the most crucial. Each uncalled-for death is one too many.
Isn’t it right for every continent to formulate its own policies?
What can be done to reduce the deaths?