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Long, dangerous journeys on the rise but migration drives prosperity

Speaking at the opening of a two-day meeting on harnessing the power of migration, IOM Director General Amy Pope expressed hope that participants will help deliver prosperity, benefits and innovations for migrants and for their countries of origin and destination. 

Roughly 281 million people worldwide are one the move, representing around 3.6 per cent of the global population, according to a recent IOM report. This is up from 153 million in 1990, and more than triple the 84 million in 1970. Global trends point to more migration in the future.

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Reasons to flee 

More people are fleeing war or fleeing violence. More people are fleeing economic hardship, or lack of opportunity. More people are fleeing the impacts of climate change, or food scarcity. And increasingly, people are fleeing a combination of all of the above,” Ms. Pope said. 

Migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, violence, abuse and discrimination, she continued. This is especially the case in the context of irregular migration, with desperate people making long, dangerous journeys in the search for a better future. 

At the same time, migration is one of the most crucial drivers of economic resilience, growth and prosperity, she said, and is even recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a catalyst for a more just and equitable future for all people and the planet. 

Widespread benefits 

“Obviously, it brings benefits in terms of economic prosperity,” she said. “But it also leads to the exchange of skills, to the strengthening of the labour force, to investment and cultural diversity. It also brings some really good food, if we’re honest.” 

The fact that migrants improve lives, whether in their new or old countries, is evidenced by another finding from the IOM report. The money they send home increased by a staggering 650 per cent during the period from 2000 to 2022, rising from $128 billion to $831 billion.  

Most of the remittances, $647 billion, were sent to low and middle-income countries, constituting a significant portion of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and surpassing foreign direct investment. 

Invest in migration 

Ms. Pope said any talk about investment must also include investment in people and in migration. 

“And the way to do that is by building safe and regular pathways for migration,” she said, highlighting the need to protect the human rights and dignity of migrants, and ensuring “that they are able to access essential services and are not fodder for exploitation in the countries where they’re going to work.” 

The Ambassador of Uganda to the UN, Adonia Ayebare, said migration is driving rapid urbanization in many parts of the world. He stressed the need for countries to “create an eco-system for joint action” on regular pathways to migration as current options are inadequate. 

“This mismatch comes at a high cost, both in terms of lives lost and human suffering due to unsafe migration, and in terms of countries of countless missed opportunities for individuals and societies,” he said. 

Controversy and misinformation 

But as UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed noted, the issue of regular pathways has become a controversial topic in some regions due to the political atmosphere surrounding migration and the proliferation of toxic misinformation campaigns. 

“Instead of putting regular pathways in place to boost labour forces, to better integrate migrants in host communities, and to make migration safer for all people on the move, policymakers are encouraged to treat migration as a problem; to believe that irregular migration represents the majority of migration, and to focus solely on the crisis dimensions,” she said in a video message. 

She pointed to the Global Compact for migration, adopted by UN Member States in 2018, which represents a commitment “to ensure that policymaking and cooperation around migration is not dictated by falsehoods and such skewed perspectives, but by facts, by common sense, and by taking a 360-degree approach to migration, including through regular pathways.” 

Young migrants at the crossroads between Zinder and Agadez regions. (file)
© UNICEF/Juan Haro

Young migrants at the crossroads between Zinder and Agadez regions. (file)

Young potential 

The head of the United Nations Youth Office, Felipe Paullier, recalled that half of the world’s population is below the age of 30.  At 1.8 billion strong, they represent the largest generation of young people in history, overwhelmingly live in developing countries, and account for just under a third of all migrants. 

“Harnessing the potential of young migrants is pivotal to unlocking human mobility’s contribution to development. Young migrants’ experience, aspirations and contributions are integral to shaping a better future for all,” he said. 

Mr. Paullier called for ensuring that “young people have a seat at the table and a voice in the decision-making processes”, including the Global Compact for migration. 

New Goodwill Ambassador 

IOM announced on Tuesday that the award-winning television and film actress and social activist America Ferrera has been appointed as its new Global Goodwill Ambassador

She is known for her many iconic roles in TV and film including Ugly Betty, Real Women Have Curves, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Superstore, and most recently, the history-making Barbie, for which she garnered her first Academy Award nomination. 

Ms. Ferrera was born in the United States to Honduran immigrant parents and said the issue of migration has always been close to her heart. 

“I’m so excited for the opportunity to continue amplifying stories that move us towards better and safer solutions for global migration,” she said. 

 

Record 75.9 million internally displaced in 2023, UN report reveals

The year also saw nearly 47 million new internal displacements, highlighting the urgent need for protection and prevention efforts, according to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), which supplied data for the report.

“As the planet grapples with conflicts and disasters, the staggering numbers of 47 million new internal displacements tells a harrowing tale,” said IOM Deputy Director General Ugochi Daniels.

“This report is a stark reminder of the urgent and coordinated need to expand disaster risk reduction, support peacebuilding, ensure the protection of human rights and whenever possible, prevent the displacement before it happens,” she added.

Over 9.5 million displaced in Sudan, Gaza

The report cited conflict and violence as primarily responsible for displacement, uprooting some 20.5 million people in 2023.

Nearly 30 per cent of these occurred in Sudan, while the Gaza Strip accounted for 17 per cent, or 3.4 million within the last three months of the year.

Natural disasters also continued to drive millions from their homes.

In 2023, disasters such as Cyclone Freddy in southeast Africa, earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria and Cyclone Mocha in the Indian Ocean led to 26.4 million displacements, making up 56 per cent of the total new internal displacements.

Notably, there was an increase in disaster-induced displacements in high-income countries, highlighted by Canada’s unprecedented wildfire season, which caused 185,000 internal displacements.

Worrying trend

Looking ahead, the number of people displaced by disasters is expected to rise as natural hazards become more frequent, prolonged and intense due to climate change impacts.

Despite these significant challenges, there are also persisting knowledge gaps.

IOM underscored the need for the international community to have better data to understand, prevent, manage and address internal displacement in both conflict and disaster contexts.

Complementary admissions for refugees reach record highs: UNHCR report

According to the report, Safe Pathways for Refugees – released on Monday – nearly 215,000 permits were granted to individuals displaced by conflict and crises by 37 OECD countries and Brazil in 2022, an increase of about 38 per cent over 2021.

Approximately 156,000 permits were issued that year, while the figure in 2020 was about 127,000.

The report focused on entry permits provided to individuals from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Venezuela by OECD countries and Brazil.

Overall, Europe accounted for 56 per cent of all permits, with the Americas providing 39 per cent. Germany and Canada provided the largest numbers of work, study and family reunification entry permits to refugees from the seven nationalities covered.

Family reunification

Notably, family reunification permits constituted over 50 per cent of all permits issued in 2022, with work and study permits also showing a steady increase.

Ruven Menikdiwela, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, highlighted the significance of these complementary admissions in the context of rising global displacement.

“With most of the world’s refugees hosted in developing regions, these forms of complementary admissions to third countries can help better protect them, provide them with opportunities to contribute to their new communities, and ease pressures on over-stretched host countries.”

She also emphasized the importance of the family reunification permits, stating that alongside being a human right, it was encouraging to see that family reunification remains the most relied upon third-country solution.

Safe and legal pathways

The senior UNHCR official also commended the efforts of governments and partners to ensure refugees’ access to safe and lawful pathways, in alignment with the agency’s Roadmap 2030.

The roadmap envisions expanding third-country solutions to reach 2.1 million complementary admissions by 2030, with 35 per cent of this target achieved through progress made in 2022.

It also underscored the importance of improving data collection to inform policy decisions and enhance refugee inclusion in regular migration streams.

It urged sustained collaborative efforts among states and stakeholders to ensure refugees have access to safe and sustainable pathways towards rebuilding their lives.

Americas: Regional cooperation crucial to address migration and forced displacement

UNHCR has renewed its call for a coordinated continental approach to the issue, as underscored during the ministerial meeting on the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, held in Guatemala on Tuesday.

New approach 

The landmark declaration aims to transform how the region manages migration and is based on the principles of solidarity, responsibility-sharing, international cooperation, and respect for human rights.  

It was launched at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, in June 2022 and has been endorsed by 22 countries.  The Declaration is aligned with the Global Compact on Refugees, adopted by UN Member States in 2018.

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  Addressing the ministerial meeting, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi highlighted the personal stories and plight of hundreds of thousands of people making long journeys across the Americas in search of a better life. 

Among them were people he met during a recent visit to the treacherous Darién border area between Panama and Colombia.  Nearly 470,000 refugees and migrants undertook perilous journeys there in 2023 alone, according to UNHCR, with hundreds dying on the way. 

Progress and challenges 

Mr. Grandi stressed the significant progress achieved by various initiatives to address the urgent needs of refugees and migrants in the region and implement the Declaration’s objectives, urging increased efforts and coordination among all stakeholders.   

Various initiatives are in place under the Los Angeles Declaration to build national capacity and provide safety and opportunities for displaced people and those on the move. 

Regularization has benefited millions, UNHCR said, as have other efforts such as provision of humanitarian assistance, strengthening of asylum systems, greater socioeconomic inclusion, and the scale-up of resettlement and other legal pathways for migration.

Yet, challenges persist, requiring sustained efforts and innovative solutions to address the needs of the more than 23 million people displaced or in need of international protection in the Americas.  

Wider issues than the Darién Gap 

The Darién is only part of the picture, and the deep human tragedy it reflects will only grow unless we redouble our joint efforts to address underlying causes of displacement, consider protection needs, and prioritize solutions,” Mr. Grandi said. 

He called for more investment to build capacity for host communities and opportunities for displaced people in countries of origin, transit, destination, and return. 

UNHCR said it would continue working with various stakeholders to enhance asylum and international protection policies, promote inclusion and integration efforts, expand resettlement and other lawful pathways, and provide support to host communities. 

Declaration portal 

In related developments, UN migration agency IOM provided technical support for the establishment of the new Los Angeles Declaration website, which was presented at the ministerial meeting. 

The website is available in English and Spanish and provides access to the Declaration, as well as to additional resources, tools, and educational materials about migration in the region. 

Unprecedented flooding displaces hundreds of thousands across east Africa

In an alert, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that torrential rains have unleashed catastrophic flooding and mudslides while also severely damaging roads, bridges and dams. 

More than 637,000 people have been affected by weeks of deluges including 234,000 displaced in just the last five days. There is no official figure for the number of dead.

Never-ending emergency 

“The (displacement) numbers keep rising,” the UN agency said, noting that the flooding emergency was one of the “harsh realities” of climate change, which has claimed lives and uprooted entire communities.

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“As these individuals face the daunting task of rebuilding, their vulnerability only deepens,” said Rana Jaber, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa.

“In this critical moment – even as IOM responds – the call remains urgent for sustainable efforts to address human mobility spurred by a changing climate,” she continued.

Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change despite contributing only about four per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions. The East and Horn of Africa has particularly been impacted by alternating cycles of drought and intense precipitation over the last decade, IOM maintained. 

Amid the worst rains and flooding in decades, IOM along with governments and partners continue to provide lifesaving assistance to affected populations who have lost family members and now face a heightened risk of waterborne disease.

In Burundi, IOM has distributed emergency shelter, blankets, cooking utensils, solar lamps dignity kits and other items to more than 5,000 people. The UN agency also supports the relocation of people at risk to safe and less flood-prone areas. 

Help is also underway in neighbouring Ethiopia – to more than 70,000 flood-affected people across Somali and Oromia regions – and to 39,000 people in Kenya’s most severely flood-affected east, centre and west – and Somalia, where some 240,000 people are to receive shelter materials, hygiene kits, essential medical care and psychosocial support, among other services.

Climate talks imperative

Ahead of UN-led discussions in Germany in June to tackle climate change, IOM insisted that it was increasingly “evident” that any discussions on our warming planet and its impact on the environment should now include considerations of human mobility and displacement.

East African leaders have already signed and committed to the Kampala Ministerial Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate Change to address the “challenges and the opportunities of climate mobility”, IOM said. But greater efforts are needed to support its implementation, “including advocating for the inclusion of climate mobility at global climate discussions such as the upcoming COP29 in November 2024, taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan”.

Misinformation and politicisation of migration is ‘clouding public discourse’

World Migration Report 2024 reveals a significant shift in global migration patterns, including a record number of people displaced due to conflict, violence, natural and other disasters.  

Speaking at the launch in Dhaka, Bangladesh, IOM Director General Amy Pope said the report aims to “demystify the complexity of human mobility through evidence-based data and analysis”. 

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Driving development and growth 

International migration remains a driver of human development and economic growth, as highlighted by a more than 650 per cent increase in international remittances from 2000 to 2022, rising from $128 billion to $831 billion.

Growth continued despite predictions that remittances would decrease substantially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the money, $647 billion, was sent to low and middle-income countries, constituting a significant portion of their GDP – that is, the amount of money earned from the sale of all goods and services. 

Globally, these remittances now surpass foreign direct investment in those countries.

Record displacement

The report also reveals ongoing challenges. Although most people continue to live in the country where they were born, an estimated 281 million people worldwide are international migrants, or roughly 3.6 per cent of the global population.  Of this number, 117 million are displaced – the highest level yet.

IOM said migration is an intrinsic part of human history, but it is often overshadowed by sensationalized narratives and headlines that belie the reality on the ground. 

“Most migration is regular, safe, and regionally focused, directly linked to opportunities and livelihoods,” the UN agency affirmed. “Yet, misinformation and politicisation have clouded public discourse, necessitating a clear and accurate portrayal of migration dynamics.”

Spotlight on Bangladesh

IOM chose Dhaka as the site for the report’s launch to both highlight Bangladesh’s efforts to support vulnerable migrants and promote pathways to regular migration and to recognize the country’s important role in shaping global migration discourse and policy. 

As a champion of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, adopted in December 2018, Bangladesh has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing migration issues and implementing policies that safeguard migrants’ rights, IOM said.  

The country’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, said “Bangladesh will not only continue to act upon the pledges it has made for its domestic context but would also take up emerging issues and challenges pertaining to migration and development for informed deliberations at the international level.”

East Africa: UN support continues amid heavy rains, severe floods and cyclone threat

Torrential rains could worsen with the arrival of Tropical Cyclone Hidaya, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned on Friday. 

Prepare for impact 

The tropical cyclone is the first of its kind to develop in eastern Africa and is due to have a “very big impact”, WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis told journalists in Geneva.

She said Tanzania was expected to suffer in particular because the ground is already waterlogged and “is about to get hit by even more rainfall” from the storm.

Kenya is also on high alert after a dam burst its banks on Monday, killing at least 45 people.

Concern for refugees 

Separately, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed particular concern about thousands of refugees and other displaced people across East Africa who have been uprooted once again after their homes were washed away. 

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In Kenya, nearly 20,000 people in the Dadaab refugee camps – home to more than 380,000 people – have been displaced due to rising water levels. Many of them are among those who arrived in the past couple of years after fleeing severe drought in neighbouring Somalia.

Some 4,000 residents are currently sheltering in six schools with facilities that have been extensively damaged. Others are staying with friends or relatives elsewhere in the camp, where several latrines have collapsed, putting refugees at risk of deadly water-borne diseases.

Forced to relocate

Meanwhile in Burundi, around 32,000 refugees – roughly half of the refugee population in the country – are living in flood-affected areas, and 500 require urgent assistance. Refugee families in the capital, Bujumbura, have had to relocate multiple times due to rising water levels. 

UNHCR said access to food and other necessities is increasingly difficult as prices have spiked due to high fees to use canoes to move goods. Education has ground to a halt as classrooms are flooded and learning materials destroyed.

Beyond Bujumbura, rent prices have reportedly doubled, making it too expensive for many refugee families to relocate. Among the badly affected areas is Nyanza Lac commune in Makamba province, where 25,000 Burundian refugees returning home from exile in recent years have settled.

Fleeing flash floods 

Other East African countries where displaced people are among the hardest hit by the rains include Somalia. Over 46,000 internally displaced persons in five locations in the south have been forced to relocate due to flash floods.

In Tanzania, over 200,000 refugees mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi hosted in two camps have been impacted. Shelters within the camps have been damaged, affecting some 200 families. 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (Left) accompanied by UN Kenya delegation led by the Resident Coordinator Dr. Stephen Jackson (Right) and UNHCR Officials, today distributed essential aid to families affected by the recent floods in Kiamaiko, Mathare, N…
UNRCO/ Fredbrannen Obadha

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (Left) accompanied by UN Kenya delegation led by the Resident Coordinator Dr. Stephen Jackson (Right) and UNHCR Officials, today distributed essential aid to families affected by the recent floods in Kiamaiko, Mathare, Nairobi County.

Working across the region 

Across East Africa, UNHCR is working closely with local authorities and partners, rushing crucial aid and providing protection services to refugees and affected communities living nearby.

The agency is providing refugees in Kenya with tarpaulins, mosquito nets, soap, jerricans and other relief items, with special attention to older persons and people with disabilities. Families are also being helped to relocate to safer areas.

UNHCR’s activities are part of the wider response to the crisis in Kenya, where the UN and partners have reached some 125,000 people so far. The UN Resident Coordinator in the country, Stephen Jackson, said overall support includes shelter, food, medicine and cash in addition to blankets and mosquito nets. 

“I think the concern is more rain is coming, and so we know the needs are going to deepen before they get better,” he told UN News.  

In Burundi, UNHCR will provide shelter kits and cash assistance to support refugees as part of an interagency response led by the government. Thousands of former Burundian refugees who have returned home are among those prioritised for support.

Teams in Tanzania are working with local partners to rehabilitate refugee shelters, while in Somalia, critical protection assistance and essential items are being delivered to internally displaced families. 

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Building climate resilience 

UNHCR said climate change is making many parts of the world increasingly unhabitable, especially fragile regions like East Africa and the Horn of Africa, and the floods reveal gaps in preparedness and early action. 

“Funding available to address the impacts of climate change is not reaching those forcibly displaced nor the communities hosting them. Without help to prepare for, withstand and recover from climate-related shocks, they face an increased risk of further displacement,” the agency said. 

Last month, UNHCR launched its first-ever Climate Resilience Fund to protect refugees and displaced people from climate shocks. The aim is to raise $100 million by the end of 2025.

Contributions will support initiatives such as providing more clean energy to power the water, schools and health infrastructure used by refugees and host communities.

Refugee Olympic Team to send message of hope at Paris Games

The 36 athletes were announced on Thursday by the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, during a live-streamed ceremony from Lausanne, Switzerland. 

They come from 11 countries and will compete across 12 sports. 

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Resilience and excellence 

“With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential of resilience and excellence. This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. At the same time, you will make billions of people around the world aware of the magnitude of the refugee crisis,” Mr. Bach said

The composition of the team was approved by the IOC Executive Board and was based on a number of criteria including, first and foremost, each athlete’s sporting performance and their refugee status as verified by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. 

For the most part they were selected from among the refugee athletes supported by the IOC through a scholarship programme. 

Transformative power of sport 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the Refugee Olympic Team should remind everyone of the resilience, courage and hopes of all those uprooted by war and persecution.  

The team also reminds us that sport can be transformative for people whose lives have been disrupted in often harrowing circumstances. Transformative not just for Olympians, but for everyone,” he added. 

Flying their own flag 

Paris will mark the third appearance of a refugee team at the Olympics, which debuted at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and this year’s squad is the largest so far. 

For the first time, the team will compete under its own emblem, instead of the Olympic flag, which features five interlocked rings in blue, black, red, yellow and green. Their emblem has a heart surrounded by way marker arrows and uses the same colours as the Olympic flag. 

Having our own emblem creates a sense of belonging and empowers us to also stand for the population of more than 100 million people who share this same experience,” said Team Captain Masomah Ali Zada, who competed at the 2020 Games in Tokyo. 

Afghanistan’s first female breakdancer, Manizha Talash, practises during a training session.
© International Olympic Committee

Afghanistan’s first female breakdancer, Manizha Talash, practises during a training session.

Meet the athletes 

In Paris, the team will be competing in sports that include breaking – a first at the Olympics – and Manizha Talash from Afghanistan will get to showcase her moves.  She is the country’s first female breakdancer, according to media reports. 

Cindy Ngamba was born in Cameroon and moved to the United Kingdom at 11. She was always interested in sports and initially joined a football team but later discovered her true passion: boxing. 

Ms. Ngamba trains with the elite amateur GB Boxing Team and is a three-time English national champion. She also made history by becoming the first-ever refugee boxer to qualify for the Olympics. 

Adnan Khankan has loved judo since he was a boy in Syria, where he joined the national junior team and participated in continental championships. War forced him to flee, and he settled in Germany. He recalled watching the Refugee Olympic Team in 2016 as a moment that truly gave him hope. 

Talented shooter Francisco Edilio Centevo Nieves was ranked number one in Venezuela and used to run a training academy where he trained people in the sport. He left his homeland together with his sister and now lives in Mexico. 

As the Refugee Olympic Team prepares for Paris, people everywhere can follow their progress on social media channels.  

World News in Brief: UN supporting East Africa flood victims, dozens more migrant deaths at sea, disinformation in Myanmar

In a statement released late on Wednesday the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been deeply distressed to hear of the hundreds of lives lost and many others affected by the deluge in Kenya as well as Burundi, Somalia, Tanzania and other parts of East Africa.

He extended his condolences to the Governments and people of the countries affected, especially the families of those who have died or been injured in this disaster, said Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

The UN and its partners are working closely with national authorities to address humanitarian requirements. The Secretary-General stresses that the UN stands ready to offer additional assistance as needed.

Mr. Guterres said he was extremely concerned about the impacts of El Niño-triggered extreme weather, which risk further devastating communities and undermining their livelihoods.

Mr. Dujarric told correspondents earlier in New York that agencies were supporting Kenya’s Government-led response to the heavy rains which have left more than 170 deaths since the middle of March, according to news reports.

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The UN and partners on the ground have been providing water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, together with food, health and psychosocial support.

Supporting Government response

“Our partners are also supporting rescue operations and setting up camps to host men, women and children displaced by the floods”, said Mr. Dujarric.

“According to national authorities, the floods have impacted more than 190,000 people and displaced over 150,000 people across the country.  The floods did not spare the agricultural sector. Over 4,800 livestock were lost and over 27,000 acres of cropland damaged”, he continued.

Further rain is expected this week, which is likely to add to the destruction caused by flooding, landslides and infrastructure loss.

Kenya’s vital tourism industry has also been hit, with scores of safari-goers reportedly evacuated in the past day from the Massai Mara national reserve, after hotels and lodges were flooded.

Several major roads in the capital Nairobi were temporarily closed on Wednesday due to flooding, and on Monday dozens were killed in the Mai Mahiu area in western Kenya when a river overflowed into a tunnel. Around 80 were also reported missing.

Agencies mourn loss of nearly 50 migrants bound for Canary Islands

The UN migration agency (IOM) and refugee agency UNHCR on Wednesday mourned yet another major loss of life at sea, when at least 50 migrants trying to reach the Canary Islands from Senegal were reported dead or missing.

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The vessel reportedly sank on Monday some 60 miles south of El Hierro. Nine people survived the tragedy and were rescued, according to reports.

These people are seeking a better life, but their dreams are shattered because of greedy smugglers and flimsy boats,” said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

Migrant journeys

Recent data from the IOM revealed that drowning was a leading cause of migrant deaths in 2023, many of which occurred in the Sahara desert and on the sea route to the Canary Islands, where travellers hope for asylum and better opportunities to live and work, for themselves and their families, in Europe.

This journey, among others, is one way for migrants to escape life-threatening conflict and the impact of climate change, the IOM had reported.

In 2023, the journey across the Mediterranean Sea resulted in the deaths and disappearances of at least 3,129 migrants – the greatest death toll since 2017. Even further, about 1,866 unprecedented migrant deaths were recorded across Africa. 

Mr. Dujarric said that IOM and UNHCR are drawing attention to the fact that “safe and regular pathways must be accessible and inclusive to save the lives of the refugees and the migrants.”

Alarm grows over spread of disinformation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

The UN team working on the ground in Myanmar has raised concern over the spread of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, especially in northern Rakhine State – home to stateless mostly-Muslim Rohingya who have suffered years of persecution by Burmese authorities.  

The breakdown of a year-long informal ceasefire between the ruling military and the rebel Arakan Army last November has now plunged 15 out of Rakhine’s 17 townships into conflict.

“We fully support community leaders in Rakhine State, especially women, and youth, who are coming together and redoubling efforts to promote social cohesion amid increasing signs of tension and the risk of communal violence re-emerging in the current very volatile context”, said Mr. Dujarric, citing the UN team in Myanmar.

A child at an internally displaced persons (IDP) centre in Myanmar. (file)
© UNICEF/Patrick Brown

A child at an internally displaced persons (IDP) centre in Myanmar. (file)

He added that addressing the root causes of systemic discrimination and impunity in Rakhine State “is essential in establishing a sustainable pathway out of the current crisis facing Myanmar.”

Cycle of violence

The failure to do so will only fuel Myanmar’s vicious cycle of violence, the UN team added.

“And we have of course been consistent in condemning all forms of violence against civilians in Myanmar, and we reiterate our call for the protection of civilians, including aid workers, in accordance with international humanitarian law, for the cessation of hostilities, and humanitarian access”, Mr Dujarric concluded.

Last month, the UN human rights chief Volker Türk warned that Rakhine state “has once again become a battleground involving multiple actors, and civilians are paying a heavy price, with Rohingya at particular risk”.

He said it was “particularly disturbing” that whereas in 2017, the Rohingya were targeted by just the Burmese military and other security forces, “they are now trapped between two armed factions who have a track record of killing them. We must not allow the Rohingya to be targeted again.”

UN migration agency assists survivors of deadly shipwreck off Djibouti

The migrants were on a boat carrying at least 77 people from Ras al-Ara off Yemen’s coast which capsized off the coast of Djibouti, near Obock, leaving 24 dead and 20 others missing.

Just two weeks ago, a similar accident, resulting in the death of at least 38 migrants, occurred.  

The occurrence of two such tragedies within a span of two weeks highlights the dangers faced by children, women, and men migrating through irregular routes, underscoring the importance of establishing safe and legal pathways for migration,” said Tanja Pacifico, IOM Chief of Mission in Djibouti.   

Searching for a better life 

In both cases, it is believed that migrants were trying to return to Djibouti from Yemen after being unable to travel to Saudi Arabia for better work and other opportunities.

Each year, tens of thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa, in particular Ethiopia and Somalia, attempt to travel through Djibouti for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations, but are often unsuccessful and end up stranded in Yemen.

“We must work to prevent as much as possible those circumstances where migrants’ safety and well-being are threatened and ensure that migrants are able to maintain contact with their families,” Ms. Pacifico said.

Numbers on the rise

IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) has reported that 3,682 migrants have left Yemen for Djibouti since the beginning of 2024 – this is more than double the figure from last year.

Despite the dangerous and life-threatening journey, IOM’s DTM recorded about 380,000 journeys along the Eastern Corridor from Africa to countries in the Arab Peninsula which claimed the lives of 1,350 – many more deaths have gone unreported. 

IOM Djibouti is continually supporting local authorities to prevent similar deaths on sea and land. The organization has also partnered with 48 other humanitarian and development groups and governments to coordinate the Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) which will respond to migrants’ humanitarian needs along the Eastern Route. 

Ms. Pacifico noted, “IOM, as Coordinator of the UN Network on Migration, is actively working on actionable recommendations for providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in distress and addressing the plight of missing migrants and their families.” 

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