The number of people who died trying to reach Europe by sea has more than doubled so far this year compared to the same period in 2020, according to a new briefing released on Wednesday by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
At least 1,146 people died attempting to reach Europe by sea in the first six months of 2021, while last year 513 migrants are known to have drowned while trying to reach Europe by sea, said the IOM.
Among the migrants who died so far this year, 16 were from Asia, while the figure was 245 last year.
When contacted about Bangladeshi migrants, Andrea García Borja, data analyst at Missing Migrants Project, IOM, said, "To our knowledge, there was no Bangladeshi citizen among the 1,146 people who died on maritime migration routes to Europe in the first half of 2021."
"However, the data on nationality collected by the Missing Migrants Project is highly incomplete, the nationality of 840 of these people remains unknown," she added.
Libya is an important way station for Bangladeshi people attempting to reach Europe by journeying across the Mediterranean. At least 26 Bangladeshis – who were being trafficked to Europe illegally via Libya – were shot dead in May last year.
In May 2019, around 39 Bangladeshis died on the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe.
The IOM's fresh brief sheds light on the ongoing situation along some of the most dangerous maritime migration routes worldwide. While the number of people attempting to cross to Europe via the Mediterranean increased by 58% between January and June this year compared to the same period in 2020, more than twice as many people have lost their lives.
The analysis, produced by the Missing Migrants Project at the IOM's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), shows an increase in deaths coupled with insufficient search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic Route to the Canary Islands, and at a time when interceptions off the North African coast are also on the rise.
So far in 2021, most of the men, women and children who died trying to reach Europe were attempting to cross the Mediterranean, where 896 deaths have been documented by the IOM.
At least 741 people died on the Central Mediterranean route, while 149 people lost their lives crossing the Western Mediterranean and six died on the Eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece.
In the same period, some 250 people drowned attempting to reach Spain's Canary Islands on the West Africa/Atlantic route.
However, that count may well be low. Hundreds of cases of invisible shipwrecks have been reported by NGOs in direct contact with those on board or with their families. Such cases, which are extremely difficult to verify, indicate that deaths on maritime routes to Europe are far higher than available data show, said the IOM.
The IMO's brief also shows an increase for the second consecutive year in North African states' maritime operations along the Central Mediterranean route. More than 31,500 people were intercepted or rescued by North African authorities in the first half of 2021, compared to 23,117 in the first six months of 2020.
Such operations off the coast of Tunisia have increased by 90% in the first six months of 2021 compared to 2020. In addition, over 15,300 people were returned to Libya in the first six months of 2021, almost three times higher than the same period in 2020 (5,476 people). This is concerning given that migrants who are returned to Libya are subjected to arbitrary detention, extortion, disappearances, and torture.