Thousands of Asylum Seekers Dying on Trek Across Africa: UN
Migrants disembark at Boiler Wharf in Senglea, Malta, on July 8, 2020. A group of 52 migrants who were rescued from the high seas on Saturday were allowed to disembark in Malta, local media reported on Wednesday. (Photo by Jonathan Borg/Xinhua)
Thousands of migrants have died after suffering "extreme" abuse while crossing Africa, according to a UN report on Wednesday that estimated 72 people perish each month on the continent's routes.
There has been considerable focus on the thousands lost at sea while trying to cross from Africa to Europe, but a new report found that routes from West and East Africa up toward the Mediterranean can be equally perilous.
Titled "On this journey, no one cares if you live or die," the report published jointly by the UN refugee agency and the Danish Refugee Council's Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) details horrific dangers many face along the way.
Most migrants making such journeys experience or witness "unspeakable brutality and inhumanity" by smugglers, traffickers, militias and sometimes state actors, the UNHCR said.
In 2018 and 2019 alone, at least 1,750 people died, corresponding to an average of 72 a month, "making it one of the most deadly routes for refugees and migrants in the world," the report found.
UNHCR's Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation, Vincent Cochetel, told reporters that those numbers were considered "a low estimate."
"That's just the visible tip of the iceberg."
"For too long, the harrowing abuses experienced by refugees and migrants along these overland routes have remained largely invisible," UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in the statement.
The report, he said, documents "killings and widespread violence of the most brutal nature, perpetrated against desperate people fleeing war, violence and persecution."
Nearly a third of those who die along these overland routes tried to cross the Sahara Desert. Others perished in the south of war-ravaged Libya, while another deadly route crosses conflict-ridden Central African Republic and Mali.
Those who survive are often left severely traumatized.
This is particularly true for the many migrants who pass through Libya, where random killings, torture, forced labor and beatings are widespread, the report found.