Smugglers killed more than 3,000 people at sea last year

More than 3,000 people are believed to have disappeared or died at sea trying to reach Europe in the past year, according to statistics from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

UNHCR figures indicate that 1,924 migrants were reported dead or missing along the central and western Mediterranean migration routes, while the route to Spain’s Canary Islands resulted in 1,153 deaths and disappearances.

The new figures, more than 3,000, are far higher than the 1,544 dead and missing reported by UNHCR for the year to 2021, reports the European Union-funded InfoMigrants website.

So far in 2022, a total of 478 people have been reported missing or dead at sea, according to UNHCR.

UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo commented on the unfolding tragedy saying: “The sea journey from West African coastal states such as Senegal and Mauritania to the Canary Islands is long and perilous and can take up to 10 days, and added: “Many boats have gone off course or disappeared without a trace in these waters.

Since 2013, more than 20,000 migrants have gone missing or died at sea in the Mediterranean alone, with 2016 seeing a total of 5,143 migrants go missing at sea, the highest year on record.

Human traffickers organize the dangerous boat trips, often for considerable sums, but sometimes they are also directly involved in the deaths of the migrants themselves.

In April, three smugglers were arrested in Spain’s Canary Islands after allegations they caused the death of 25 migrants by throwing them into the sea where they drowned. In some cases the sadism of the smugglers runs deep, desperate individuals thinking they can make their way beyond the weak borders of Europe through traffickers tortured, raped and murdered by the people they paid to move them.

Now some are warning that 2022 could see the highest number of migrants trying to enter Europe illegally since the peak of the migrant crisis in 2016, even if refugees from Ukraine are not included in the figures.

Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, said last month that it recorded at least 40,000 illegal entries into the EU between January and March this year alone, a figure up 57% from the previous year. same period in 2021.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or by e-mail at ctomlinson(at)


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