Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 204,311; Deaths 2,443

31/5/16 Geneva - International Organization for Migration reports an estimated 204,311 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 30 May, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

After a surge in reported shipwrecks and other incidents at sea during the past eight days, estimated deaths through 30 May this year have risen to 2,443 on all Mediterranean routes now is a 34% increase over the first five months of 2015.

It is worth noting that a week ago, when IOM gave a briefing on the situation on the Mediterranean traffic, we reported confirmed fatalities were running 24% lower than last year’s total through all of May. That estimate--1,828 on all known migrant routes—was less than half of the final total for 2015, which came to 3770. For the first three weeks of May this year, IOM estimated just 13 fatalities had been reported in just three incidents, none occurring on the eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey and Greece, where through the first four months of 2016, nearly 400 migrants and refugees drowned. We saw this as a hopeful tend.

The events of this past week—with an estimated 968 deaths—obviously have changed our assessment. The past eight days marks one of the deadliest periods yet in the emergency now in its fourth year.

To recount some important benchmarks:

• Over 13,000 migrants have been rescued in the channel of Sicily from Monday 23 May to Sunday 29 May, bringing the total through the month of May 2016 to 47,600 men, women and children.

• Despite the increase of arrivals recorded in these days, the number of migrants arrived to Italy this year is almost precisely the same number registered last year during this period (47,463 as of 31 May 2015).








25 May 2016




1 woman

Off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy

25 May 2016




4 women

Off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy

26 May 2016





Off the coast of Zawiya, Libya

26 May 2016




40 children

35 nautical miles north of Zuwara, Libya

26 May 2016




Between North Africa and Messina, Italy

28 May 2016





Off Sabratha, Libya

28 May 2016





Off the coast of Sicily's Agrigento Porto Empedocle, Italy

29 May 2016





Off the coast of Reggio Calabria

30 May 2016





Off the coast of Brindisi, Apulia, Italy
















The biggest incident occurred last Thursday and involved an engineless wooden boat with over 550 people on board. IOM understands this craft was being towed by another smuggling boat, which had an estimated 800 on board. After several hours, the smaller boat began to take on water. According to testimonies IOM gathered once survivors landed in Italy, that after captain of the towing boat cut its tow line, the second vessel continued to take on water and, eventually, capsized. Initial reports indicate almost all the migrants aboard drowned, with just Only 87 survivors. Many of those migrants involved were Eritreans, but there were also Ethiopians and Sudanese on board.

IOM staff interviewed one survivor, Stefanos, a young Eritrean, who said, “There were many women and boys in the hold. We were taking on water, but we had a pump that helped us to push the water out. When the pump ran out of fuel, we asked for more fuel to the captain of the first boat, who said no. At this point there was nothing left to do: the water was everywhere and we slowly started to sink. There were between about 35 and 40 children next to me: all died.”

Another deadly incident, reported by IOM last Friday, occurred on Wednesday, May 25. After having met survivors, IOM staff reported that the number of confirmed fatalities now is 250—not the100 initially estimated. Other survivors, rescued last Thursday by the vessel “Reina Sofia”—which recovered 45 bodies—gave testimony stating that their boat was carrying some 350 people. About 280 of those migrants remain missing.

Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean explained: “The increase in numbers of arrivals is attributable, in part, to better weather and in part to the use of bigger wooden boats that can carry more people than the rubber boats that are usually used. Smugglers put more than 700 migrants on the wooden boats, whereas the rubber ones generally carry 100 to 120 people. During the last few days we have had major accidents involving unsafe wooden boats. This also explains the increase in the number of migrants that are dead or missing: once accident can result in hundreds of fatalities.”

In the case of the incident that caused 500 dead, that boat went out without an engine. Survivors reported they did not want to leave in such conditions, but were forced by smugglers to board.

“This is a humanitarian emergency in the desert and at sea where thousands of people are dying. For the moment, number of arrivals is the same as last year but the number of deaths registered this year already is higher compared to the same period in 2015. Without the outstanding work of the many rescue ships which patrol the Channel of Sicily, the death toll would have been even higher,” added Mr. Soda.

He also said: “The rescue operations are indispensable and must continue–we commend all those involved in the life saving efforts. However, these operations are not in and of themselves a solution. We must come together to change irregular, dangerous and highly costly migration to one that is legal, safe and orderly.”

On 27 May a boat with 64 migrants issued a distress call while navigating south of Crete. Hellenic Coast Guard, along with two fishing vessels, managed to transfer the migrants to the Port of Siteia. On 28 May, IOM personnel in Crete visited Siteia. Among those rescued were 13 people from Afghanistan: (6 male; 7 female), 17 from Iran (13 male; 4 female), 28 from Iraq (14 male; 14 female), 5 from Syria (2 male; 3 female) and from 1 from Pakistan (1 male child). There were two pregnant women, both between 5 and 6 month of pregnancy. The youngest person among the migrants was an Iraqi aged 9 months, while the oldest was an Iraqi woman, 71 years old, travelling on her own.

According to the migrants’ testimony, they were forced to pay to the smugglers between $5000 and $7500 for their passage. A 40 year old Iraqi man told IOM: “Before the war and the terrorists our life in Iraq was wonderful. I owned a super market, a truck and I also had a beautiful house. Now I have nothing. I sold everything to save my family and myself. In 2014 I managed to send my 3 children and my wife in Glasgow. I paid $25,000 for each one of them to issue false passports and they travelled from Turkey by air. I’ve missed them so much and I decided after two years to leave Iraq. Meanwhile the situation with terrorists has been deteriorated. We are not safe. Every night I see the terrorists 300 meters away from my house. Our lives are constantly at risk.

“I found a smuggler in Iraq who transferred me to Istanbul, Turkey. In Istanbul it is very easy to find smuggler. Every coffee-shop is full of smugglers. They ask you “Where do you want to go? –Germany?” they send you to Germany. Turkish Police and smugglers are working very close. Turkish policemen ask for bribes from the migrants in order to let them leave without documents. From Istanbul the smugglers took us to Dalamar district, city of Marmaris where I spent 10 days on a house, along with other migrants. We were locked in the house and couldn’t leave it, in fear of the Turkish Police.

“After 10 days, they transferred us to the port. We saw the ship at midnight. The smuggler asked if we want to get on board. It seemed to be seaworthy and thus I paid $5000 in order to go to Italy and then to Scotland to find my family. The Turkish Police was in front of the whole operation. They assisted us to get on board and they escorted us 200 meters away from the coast, and then they turned back!

“At the ship the smugglers took our mobiles, and locked us in for the most of the journey. They were on the upper deck, where they were driving and smoking marihuana. They didn’t let us see them; they were only shouting with Russian accent “Shut up! Shut up!” They didn’t give us food or water for 36 hours. Moreover there was no toilet on our deck.

The ship was descent, but the weather was inclement. At once big waves, 9 meters high broke the window of our ship and water came in. Everyone was crying, vomiting and some lost conscious couple of times. We were scared and thought we were dying. At this point we called the Coast Guard and asked to rescue us.

Now I want to go to my family more than anything else. I can’t wait for six months until the asylum procedure ends. I have money. I will pay someone to take me to my family. I sold everything, just to be with them. I will go. I don’t care if I live or die during the journey. Six months is too long, he said and he turned into tears.

A 28 year-old woman from Baghdad, traveling with her infant, told IOM: “I left Iraq with my 9-months son, without my husband knowing it. I informed only my parents who supported me in this. I decided to do it that way, because in Iraq there is no freedom for women. I was really depressed by my husband. I wasn’t allowed to do anything without his consent. Women are human beings, and they should be equally treated with men. He cheated on me thousand times, and it was like ‘no harm done’. If a woman in Iraq cheats on her husband everyone would agree that she must be beheaded. I left Iraq without a plan. I knew only that I wanted to leave.

Our journey was really bad. The baby and I were on the lower deck with four more persons in a room, a little bigger than a telephone booth. The weather was bad. We thought we were dying. Big waves were hitting our ship. My son was constantly crying and vomiting. I was also scared. No one helped me.

We were so disappointed to hear that we are in Greece. Our destination was Italy. I contacted my parents and they told me to go back to Iraq. But I am not listening to them. I made my own decision. I want to live free, without being patronized. I will try to go to the Netherlands or to Germany, despite the fact that I have no one to look after us in Europe.


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For further information please contact IOM Greece. Daniel Esdras, Tel: +30 210 9912174, Email: or Kelly Namia, Tel: +302109919040, +302109912174, Email:  or Abby Dwommoh at IOM Turkey, Tel: +903124551202, Email: or Flavio Di Giacomo at IOM Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email: or IOM Geneva, Joel Millman, Tel: +41.22.717.9486 – Mobile: +, Email: or Leonard Doyle, Tel: + 41 79 285 7123, Email: or Daniel Szabo, Tel: 41 22 768 77 03, Email

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