GMDAC Briefing Series: Towards safer migration in Africa: Migration and Data in Northern and Western Africa – Calculating “Death Rates” in the Context of Migration Journeys: Focus on the Central Mediterranean

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Since the beginning of 2014, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded the deaths of over 20,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea as they tried to make the dangerous migration journey to Europe. Yet beyond the total numbers of fatalities, other approaches are needed to understand this catastrophic loss of life. One way is to look at mortality rates, also known as “death rates,” which measure the number of deaths in proportion to the size of a particular population over a specific period of time.

In the context of migration, death rates are calculated based on the number of known deaths in relation to the number of known attempts to use irregular migration routes over specific time periods. Calculating mortality rates in the context of migration is relatively new and requires several crucial caveats. This briefing provides an overview of what factors to consider when calculating and interpreting these statistics and demonstrates how differences in the underlying data result in different mortality rates.