Migration in Africa has killed 7,400 people in the last five years

Since 2014, more than 7,400 men, women, and children have died in transit in Africa. This is shown in the new records published by the IOM (International Organization for Migration, part of the UN) Missing Migrant Project (MMP). The number may be even higher considering that these are only documented deaths.

African migrants are dying at the rate of about 25 people per week – or about 1,300 per year on the African continent, even before embarking on dangerous sea voyages to Europe or the Arabian Peninsula. The Horn of Africa land routes and the dangerous sea passage through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea have killed at least 1,171 people since 2014. Migrants reported witnessing others starving, dehydrating, exposure to adverse weather conditions, vehicle accidents, and violence at the hands of smugglers.

Bangui, Capital of Central African Republic Photo: Sandra Black / IOM

The new records are based on hundreds of eyewitness reports collected from migrants through surveys conducted by the Mixed Migration Center (4Mi) Monitoring Mechanism Initiative. The initiative collects data through a network of over 120 monitors in more than 20 countries, and is part of the Mixed Migration Center, an independent data collection, research, and monitoring agency on mixed migration. Interviews with migrants were conducted by 4Mi between December 2018 and April 2019 in West, North and East Africa and were reviewed by the Missing Migrants Project team before being added to the MMP database.

Records show that thousands of people lose their lives while traveling across North Africa, where 4,400 deaths have been reported since 2014. However, deaths in this region are not well documented and the true number of lives lost during migration remains unknown.

Migration routes in sub-Saharan Africa are also dangerous, as shown by the project’s 1,830 deaths since 2014. Many of these deaths were reported in West Africa, where 240 people were killed in 2019.

Niger (West Africa) Photo: IOM

Survey data do not contain information about the identities of those whom survey participants witnessed dying. Apart from initiatives such as 4Mi, there are few records on migrant deaths on the continent. Generally, their remains cannot be recovered nor their deaths investigated. Nor do their families know about it.

Latest data on migrant deaths in Africa can be found on the Missing Migrant Project website (https://missingmigrants.iom.int/region/africa). 

Data from the Anonymized Missing Migrants Project can be downloaded from http://missingmigrants.iom.int/downloads.

Information on the strengths and weaknesses of different sources of death data during migration, including survey data, can be found at: Fatal Journeys Volume 3, Part 1