Celebrated every December 18, International Migrants Day is an occasion to honor the contributions of immigrants across the globe. For 2014, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had sobering news.
According to the Geneva-based organization, nearly 5,000 migrants perished worldwide while attempting to reach their promised lands. The fatal toll was more than double 2013’s number, jumping from 2,778 deaths to 4,868 deaths. The OIM identified the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 3,000 migrants perished trying to cross the body of water that separates Europe from Africa and Asia, as the deadliest route.
In second and third place, respectively, were the Bay of Bengal (540 deaths) and the U.S.-Mexico border (307 deaths). The IOM did not specify on which side of the U.S.-Mexico line the reported deaths occurred. Since many migrants remain disappeared, the death toll is likely an undercount.
In another measurement of migration, the IOM said this week that the global numbers of internally displaced persons (33.3 million) and refugees (16.7 million) had reached their “highest levels since World War Two.”
In comments for International Migrants Day, William Lacy Swing, IOM general director, challenged a “rising increase in xenophobia” and urged countries to save the lives of people in need.
In light of demographic changes sweeping the planet, Swing also questioned the wisdom of closing off migratory flows from the less developed world to the more developed nations.
“Migration is not only inevitable but convenient and necessary,” Swing remarked. “The rising sentiments of rejection toward migrants is a cruel irony in an epoch when societies that are getting older need to recur to migration in order to maintain the necessary labor force.”
According to the IOM, 232 million migrants inhabited the planet in 2014, representing approximately three percent of the earth’s population. Besides conflict, the IOM identified ebola in Africa, climate change and extreme weather events as among the forces driving migration.
Additional sources: El Sol de Tijuana/EFE December 16, 2014. Proceso/Apro, December 17, 2014. Article by Mathieu Tourliere.