Examining Missing Migrants in the East and Horn of Africa Region in the Context of COVID-19

Every year, thousands of migrants die or go missing in the course of their journeys abroad. Recording information about these incidents and the people involved provides an opportunity to identify where humanitarian and life-saving practices are most needed, as exemplified by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which put forward indicator 10.7.3, the “number of people who died or disappeared in the process of migration towards an international destination,” to measure progress towards the achievement of target 10.7 on “facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration.”1 Each year, hundreds of thousands of migrants from the East and Horn of Africa journey along dangerous, irregular and mixed migration routes to reach various destinations around the world, with the most important and relevant migratory corridor being the Eastern Route which runs from the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, in particular to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Migration along this corridor is predominantly driven by economic reasons.2 This paper therefore seeks to give a brief snapshot of the available information on the risks migrants face in the EHoA region and of deaths and disappearances during transit, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP)3 has collected data on migrant deaths and disappearances since 2014. While more than 40,000 migrant deaths have been documented worldwide since that time, there are still many more that have not been captured. The lack of official data sources on deaths during irregular migration journeys has necessitated the use of unofficial or unverifiable sources of information, such as news articles, civil society organizations, and surveys. Furthermore, people who die in remote areas of the world, or stories of fatalities that are not considered news-worthy by major media outlets likely go uncounted, leaving behind a very crucial data gap especially in the less developed areas of the world.
This is particularly true in the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) region,4 where there is little awareness and attention on the issue of migrant deaths, which therefore means that unless there is a mass casualty event, many of these deaths are likely to go unreported. It is therefore important to clarify that the number of migrant deaths and disappearances that are recorded in the region is only a small fraction of the true number of lives that are lost during migration.
Recently, IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), in close collaboration with IOM’s EHoA Regional Data Hub (RDH), has expanded the MMP in the region by strengthening the network of key informants that can provide critical information about these incidents. There has been renewed effort and emphasis for more dedicated data collection on missing migrants not only in the EHoA region, but also across various parts of the world.

Source: International Organization for Migration

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