World in View: Migrants die on treks to Europe and U.S.

August 4, 2023

by Eugene Walker

After risking their lives on dangerous journeys,  more than 50,000 migrants
are known to have died worldwide since 2014
—U.N.’s Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project

Myanmar migrants during the 2020 pandemic. Photo: Prachatai, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A UN report issued at the end of 2022 stated that more than 60% of the men, women, and children who died fleeing their homes remain unidentified. More than 25,000 drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea; some 7.000 died traveling in the Americas. Of those missing migrants, 9,000 were from Africa, 7,000 from Asia and another 3,000 from the Americas. The top three countries of origin are Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar (Burma).

The horrendous reality encompasses not only the inhuman conditions that force so many people to flee their homes but also the indifference of governments to those conditions, and even the evidence of their official acts that caused the deaths of hundreds of migrants:

  • GreeceThis past June, journalists presented evidence from their investigation that a Greek Coast Guard vessel sought to tow a trawler, overloaded with some 700 migrants, out of Greek waters towards Italy. The towing appeared to cause the trawler to capsize and more than 500 people drowned. The Coast Guard vessel had not responded to three offers of help from Frontex, the EU border and coastguard agency. “I feel that they have tried to push us out of Greek water so that their responsibility ends,” a survivor said.
  • MexicoForty migrant men and boys were killed on March 27 when a fire raged through a Ciudad Juárez detention center run by the National Migration Institute of Mexico. The immigrants could not escape because they were locked in. Many had been rounded up from Ciudad Juárez streets where they had been forced to wait because the U.S. would not allow them to cross to seek asylum, an international right. “This tragedy is a crime against humanity,” said a migrant from San Cristóbal, Venezuela, who is living with his two daughters on the streets of Ciudad Juárez. “We’re pawns in a game between giants. No one cares what happens to us. The place where these people died has no dignity at all. It is a prison.”
  • Tunisia—Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have been the target of veritable manhunts in Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city. Local residents have evicted them and sometimes attacked them, while the police forcibly take them out into the desert. President Kais Saied, in racist statements, publicly urged security forces to take urgent action against sub-Saharan migrants in the country. He has incited attacks against migrants. An immigrant from Sierra Leone described the present moment: “The violence here is very tough. Tunisian boys, they came and hit the door, forcing their way in. They hit me and forced us out. If I have the opportunity, I will go to Europe.”
  • United States—Texas Governor Greg Abbott has arranged for barrels covered in razor wire to be placed in a section of the Rio Grande river to prevent migrants from crossing. There are also reports of pushing migrants back into the river after they have crossed. Meanwhile, President Biden has put in place policies limiting asylum seekers that are very similar to those Trump used while in office.

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