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About 60,000 Migrants are Dead or Missing in the Past 2 Decades

The International Organization for Migration estimates 5,400 migrants globally died or were recorded as missing in 2015

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Syrians and Iraqi Refugees. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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  • Majority of known deaths in the last two years have occurred in the Mediterranean region
  • The rate of death across the central Mediterranean route, we estimate is approximately one in 23 person
  • The Turkey-EU agreement intended to provide legal migrant routes to Europe has largely choked off the eastern Mediterranean Sea route from Turkey to Greece

A report from the  International Organization for Migration (IOM) found at least 60,000 migrants died or disappeared at sea or on land routes over the past two decades. IOM considers the real number to be much higher because many bodies are never found or identified.

The report said the majority of known deaths in the last two years have occurred in the Mediterranean region. The International Organization for Migration estimates 5,400 migrants globally died or were recorded as missing in 2015.

This year, IOM has documented more than 3,400 migrant deaths worldwide.  Director of IOM’S Global Migration Data Analysis Center Frank Laczko said  more than 80 percent of the deaths were people attempting to reach Europe by sea.

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“The rate of death across the central Mediterranean route, we estimate is approximately one in 23 persons,” he said. “The one in 23 persons who have tried to cross the central Mediterranean have died or are unaccounted for among migrants this year, which is a shocking statistic.”

The Turkey-EU agreement intended to provide legal migrant routes to Europe has largely choked off the eastern Mediterranean Sea route from Turkey to Greece. So most migrants are making the dangerous sea crossing from Libya to Italy. Laczko said the risk of death on the route has increased, but the actual volume of people crossing the Mediterranean has not increased as much as expected.

Refugees of the Vlora at the port of Bari (Italy) on 8 August 1991. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Refugees of the Vlora at the port of Bari (Italy) on 8 August 1991. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

He told VOA there has not been a substantial increase in the number of people coming from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

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“There has been fears that with the closing of the eastern Mediterranean route, we would see substantial increases in migrants turning to the central Mediterranean route,” he said. “It still seems to be predominantly dominated by migrants from sub-Saharan African countries.”

Laczko said about 10 percent are from Nigeria, another 10 percent from Eritrea and most of the remaining migrants are from West and East Africa. He noted migrant death rates in southeast Asia are as high as those in the Mediterranean, though the volume of people crossing the sea in that region is lower. (VOA)

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  • AJ Krish

    This is shocking. A proper investigation must be done to determine the cause. It doesn’t make sense that only migrants go missing and end up dead.

  • sahil nandwani

    This is really very shocking news!! The 60,000 migrants are dead or missing. The international organizations should have to take a deep investigation about this matter.

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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)