Over 29,000 migrants died on route to Europe since 2014 - UN agency

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By AP  with Euronews
Recent shipwrecks have once again put the spotlight on the dangers of the Mediterranean migration route to Europe.
Recent shipwrecks have once again put the spotlight on the dangers of the Mediterranean migration route to Europe.   -   Copyright  Petros Karadjias/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

More than 29,000 people have died on migration routes to Europe since 2014, according to a new report.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said at least 5,684 migrants had died trying to reach Europe since the start of last year alone.

According to its report, the deadliest migration route remains the Central Mediterranean from Libya and Tunisia towards Malta or Italy, with migrants crossing the seas in dangerous, rickety rafts. 

The IOM said on Tuesday that 2,836 migrants and refugees have died along this route since January 2021 -- an increase on the previous period.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 deaths have been recorded on the Atlantic Ocean route from West Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands since 2021.

The UN agency's Missing Migrants Project has warned of “increasing numbers of deaths" on both sea and land borders to Europe, including the English Channel.

Many of the deaths “could have been prevented by prompt and effective assistance to migrants in distress,” its press release reads, claiming there is also a "structural failure to provide adequate safe pathways".

Syrians accounted for the largest number of deaths on route to Europe, following by Moroccans and Algerians. 

The IOM also acknowledged that the true number of casualties may be higher due to “invisible shipwrecks” -- migrant boats that vanish at sea without witnesses.

The agency also stated that at least 252 migrants have died as a direct result of alleged illegal pushbacks or forced expulsions by "European authorities". 

The report says 97 of the pushback-related deaths were documented in the Central Mediterranean, 70 in the Eastern Mediterranean, 58 on the Turkey-Greece land border, 23 in the Western Mediterranean, and four on the Belarus-Poland border.

“Such cases are nearly impossible to verify in full due to the lack of transparency, lack of access, and the highly politicised nature of such events,” the IOM report states.

Pushbacks are unlawful according to both international and European Union law.

“These continuing deaths are another grim reminder that more legal and safe pathways to migration are desperately needed,” said the report's author, Julia Black.

European authorities have denied pushbacks are happening.