Smugglers Led Over 3,000 To Their Deaths at Sea Last Year Trying To Reach Europe

AT SEA - MARCH 29: A wooden boat with 95 migrants on board waits to be rescued by the NGO
Carlos Gil/Getty Images

Over 3,000 people are said to have gone missing or died at sea attempting to reach Europe over the course of last year, according to statistics from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The UNHCR figures claim that 1,924 migrants have either been declared dead or missing along the central and western Mediterranean migrant routes, while the route to the Spanish Canary Islands has led to 1,153 deaths and disappearances.

The new figures, over 3,000, are far higher than the 1,544 dead and missing people reported by the UNHCR for the year prior to 2021, the European Union-funded website InfoMigrants reports.

So far in 2022, a total of 478 people have been reported either as being missing or dead at sea, according to the UNHCR.

UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo commented on the ongoing tragedy saying, “The sea journey from West African coastal states such as Senegal and Mauritania to the Canary Islands is long and perilous and can take up to 10 days, and added, “Many boats have gone off course or disappeared without a trace in these waters.”

Since 2013, there have been well over 20,000 migrants who have been reported missing or dead at sea in the Mediterranean alone, with 2016 seeing a total of 5,143 migrants disappearing at sea, the highest year ever recorded.

People traffickers arrange the dangerous boat journies, and often for considerable amounts of money, but sometimes they are also directly involved in the deaths of migrants themselves.

In April, three people smugglers were arrested in the Spanish Canary islands after allegations that they had caused the deaths of 25 migrants by throwing them into the sea where they drowned. In some cases, the sadism of people smugglers is profound, with desperate individuals believing they can buy their way past Europe’s weak borders through traffickers tortured, raped, and murdered by the people they paid to move them.

Now, some are warning that 2022 could see the largest number of migrants attempt to enter Europe illegally since the height of the migrant crisis in 2016, even with Ukrainian refugees discounted from the figures.

Frontex, the European Union border agency, stated last month that they recorded at least 40,000 illegal entries into the EU between January and March of this year alone, a figure up 57 per cent from the same period in 2021.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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