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Geneva, 5 July Refugees and migrants continue to face extreme forms of violence, human rights violations and exploitation not just at sea, but also on land routes across the African continent, towards its Mediterranean coastline. This is according to a new report released today by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC), titled “On this journey, no-one cares if you live or die” (Volume 2). 

With more people estimated to cross the Sahara Desert than the Mediterranean Sea – and deaths of refugees and migrants in the desert presumed to be double those happening at sea – the report casts light on the much less documented and publicized perils facing refugees and migrants on these land routes. 

Spanning a 3-year data collection period, the report also warns of an increase in the number of people attempting these perilous land crossings and the protection risks they face.  

This is in part the result of deteriorating situations in countries of origin and host countries – including the eruption of new conflicts in the Sahel and Sudan, the devastating impact of climate change and disasters on new and protracted emergencies in the East and Horn of Africa, as well as the manifestation of racism and xenophobia affecting refugees and migrants. 

The report also notes that across parts of the continent, refugees and migrants are increasingly traversing areas where insurgent groups, militias and other criminal actors operate, and where human trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, forced labour and sexual exploitation are rife. Some smuggling routes are now shifting towards more remote areas to avoid active conflict zones or border controls by State and non-State actors, subjecting people on the move to even greater risks.  

Among the litany of risks and abuses reported by refugees and migrants are torture, physical violence, arbitrary detention, death, kidnapping for ransom, sexual violence and exploitation, enslavement, human trafficking, forced labour, organ removal, robbery, arbitrary detention, collective expulsions and refoulement. 

Criminal gangs and armed groups are reported as the main perpetrators of these abuses, in addition to security forces, police, military, immigration officers and border guards.  

Despite commitments undertaken by the international community to save lives and address vulnerabilities, in accordance with international law, the three organizations warn that current international action is inadequate.  

Huge gaps in protection and assistance prevail across the Central Mediterranean route, pushing refugees and migrants to move onward on dangerous journeys. Specific support as well as access to justice for survivors of various forms of abuse is rarely available anywhere on the routes. Inadequate funding and restrictions on humanitarian access (including in key locations such as informal detention centres and holding facilities) are also hampering support. 

On their part, UNHCR, IOM, partners and several governments have stepped up life-saving protection services and assistance, identification and referral mechanisms along the routes – but humanitarian action is not enough.  

The organizations are calling for concrete, routes-based protection responses to save lives and reduce suffering, as well as a push to address the root causes of displacement and drivers of irregular movements– through positive action on peacebuilding, respect for human rights, governance, inequality, climate change and social cohesion, as well as the creation of safe pathways for migrants and refugees. These should span countries of origin, asylum, transit and destination.   

The organizations hope the report’s findings will bolster action to address the current gaps in the response towards people on the move. 


The report is available here:  


For more information, please contact: 


UNHCR: Shabia Mantoo,, +41 79 337 7650 

Mixed Migration Centre: Asma Arfaoui, Global Communication Officer,  


Source of original article: International Organization for Migration (
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