More than 3,400 migrants died or were recorded as missing as they tried to cross borders around the globe in the first five months of the year — over 80 percent of them trying to reach Europe by sea, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday.
The number is 12 percent above the 2,780 deaths or disappearances recorded during the same period in 2015. Over the whole of last year, the IOM estimated Wednesday that 5,400 migrants died or were reported missing worldwide.
Frank Laczko, director of the IOM's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre in Berlin that tracks missing migrants, said the Central Mediterranean route between Northern Africa and Italy has become the world's most dangerous passage for migrants. In the last week of April, some 1,100 migrants died or went missing off Libya in nine separate incidents.
The IOM said its new data analysis center receives information on a daily basis from its 400 offices all over the world and from various international organizations to help collect information on missing migrants.
Laczko pointed out that available data is often shaky and vague and that the identification of dead migrants is being neglected in many countries. Often bodies washed to the shores are simply buried in anonymous mass graves.
"What happens to those who die? Who are their families and will they ever know what happened?" Laczko said. "Caught between grief and hope, their search can take years, even a lifetime."
The IOM called on governments to do more to help trace the missing and identify the bodies of the dead — especially to assist the distressed families. "For every migrant who dies, there are probably 20 people affected," said IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle, adding that family members are not only distressed by the loss, but also were hoping the migrant would financially support them financially.
Currently, a majority of migrant bodies are never found, and of those that are, many are never identified, the IOM said. In the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, bodies for fewer than half of those thought to have died were recovered. The organization also reported that over 60,000 migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing on sea and land routes worldwide in the last 20 years.