New Xchange survey traces back the perilous journeys and incidents facing migrants and refugees crossing the Central Mediterranean

The Central Mediterranean Sea is host to the most active of the three known major migratory routes into Europe.

Last year, it was recorded that of the total reported migrant and refugee entries into Europe, 80% of them took place across the Sicilian channel between Libya and Italy.  This is regarded as the most dangerous sea route to Europe with the highest number of migrant deaths globally. According to the very latest figures from the International Office for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project, 388 deaths have been recorded so far this year, over half the current total of reported sea fatalities in the Mediterranean (660).[1]

These deaths only tell part of the story.

Departing the coast of Libya, marks the final stage of the migrant and refugee’s journey, but what happens on the land before it, is arguably more dangerous.  What is known so far is that migrants and refugees are making considerable overland journeys from origin points in the Sub-Sahara, traversing remote desert and jungle to reach departure points in North Africa.  This a journey fraught with dangers.  One wrong turn by a smuggler along an ever-changing desert landscape, can commit a group of migrants to dehydration, starvation and death.  There are also reports of extortion, slavery and other abuses committed against migrants along all stages of the journey. 

There are still serious gaps in knowledge and evidence of this migratory route and this is where Xchange comes in.

Before the beginning of our data collection, evidence was largely anecdotal at best, and unreliable at worst.  Drawing on over 100 surveys carried out aboard the MOAS vessel MY Phoenix during 2017, Xchange hopes to trace back the journeys of refugees and migrants using the Central Mediterranean route.  It’s hoped the first-hand data and witness testimony gathered by Xchange over the course of May and September 2017, will help us investigate, analyze and visualize the migratory routes across Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as the incidents and abuses faced by these people on the move. 

The findings will be published on June 19th 2018 so stay tuned for more updates.