A refugee or migrant has died every 80 minutes in wake of Alan Kurdi’s death

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 02 Sep 2016

Since the start of 2016 a refugee or migrant has died almost every 80 minutes while trying to reach another country, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

This is despite the public outcry over the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi in the Mediterranean a year ago today, on 2 September 2015.

Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Advocacy Lead Dr Nicole Bieske said globally the number of refugees and migrants who have died has increased by more than 20 per cent in the last year.

“At least 5,700 people have died on refugee and migrant routes around the world since the body of the young Syrian boy washed up on a beach after his family tried to cross to Europe from Turkey. In the year before he died, 4,664 deaths were recorded,” Dr Bieske said.

“Photos of little Alan Kurdi caused a global outpouring of support for refugees and migrants on social media. Similarly, the recent images of Omran Daqneesh, the young Syrian boy pictured bloodied and covered in dust after being pulled from the rubble of his apartment block in Aleppo have had a similar effect.

“Despite the strength of the public response to this issue, one year on nothing has improved for those searching, as Alan’s family was, for safety and dignity.”

Dr Bieske said Oxfam is calling on governments – especially rich ones – to commit to welcoming more refugees.

“This crisis is far too big for any one country to solve alone, governments worldwide must act together to save lives. The Australian Government must commit to a timeframe to resettle the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees they agreed to take in a year ago and increase Australia’s overall annual humanitarian intake to 42,000 by 2020/ 21,” said Dr Bieske.

“The Australian Government should also provide further humanitarian funding to countries hosting large refugee populations such as Jordan, Lebanon and others.”

Two major meetings on the global refugee and migration crisis take place in New York later this month – the UN Summit for refugees and migrants and the Leaders’ Summit on refugees. Negotiations for the UN Summit were held, but were very disappointing, with many countries unwilling to do more to help.

“Both the UN and President Obama see the migration challenge as critical, calling for two separate summits. But the outcomes of the recent meetings ahead of the UN Summit were appallingly weak, with states focusing on self-interest while more lives were lost on ever more dangerous routes to safety.

“The Australian Government has not one but two further chances to help now – at the UN’s and President Obama’s respective summits for refugees and migrants. Our leaders must not waste these opportunities as lives are on the line,” Dr Bieske said.

For interviews with Oxfam staff, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or dylanq@oxfam.org.au
Notes to Editors

  1. In initial reports, Alan Kurdi’s name was spelled ‘Aylan’ but later reports corrected this to Alan.
  2. According to the International Organisation for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project, 4664 people died on refugee and migrant routes around the world between 1September 2014 and 31 August 2015. 5700 people died on refugee and migrant routes between 1 September 2015 and 26 August 2016 (the time of writing). Access the statistics here – http://missingmigrants.iom.int/
    The majority of deaths recorded by the International Organisation for Migration were people who drowned in the Mediterranean. But other cases included people crossing the Sahara desert, drowning on boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, and while travelling on the top of trains in Mexico.