ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Migration Agency reported that 84,345 migrants and refugees entered Europe using smuggling routes on the Mediterranean Sea in 2018, with 38,451 heading to Spain, the leading destination this year.
In the same period of time last year, the region recorded 139,677 arrivals, and 312,153 in 2016, according to IOM’s report.
It also mentions that deaths on the Mediterranean remain high, with 1,777 people who have died or gone missing on migratory routes across the Mediterranean region. However, that figure is well below fatalities recorded at this time last year (2,749) or 2016 (3,682).
According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, over 60 percent of migrant deaths worldwide in 2018 have been recorded in the Mediterranean Sea.
Since 1 Jan. 2017, IOM has returned 32,190 people under Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR), either via commercial airliners or charters. The top four countries of return are Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Guinea.
Beyond the Mediterranean, IOM has documented the deaths and disappearances of 2,797 people as they migrated to international destinations in 2018.
The Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, in particular, are the most popular routes for migrants from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, who have been using them over the past few years to enter Europe illegally.
Over the past five years, 289 people from the Kurdistan Region have drowned in the Aegean Sea, Secretary of the Iraqi Migration and Displacement Federation, Dashti Kamal, recently said in a statement to the local media.
In 2014, the number of migrants fleeing from the Kurdistan Region and Iraq sharply increased following the emergence of the Islamic State (IS), which controlled large swaths of territory in the country.
Editing by Nadia Riva