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Spatial–temporal trends in forced migrant mortality, 2014–2018

Countries
World
Sources
BMJ
Publication date
Origin
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Danielle N Poole, Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, Till Bärnighausen, Stéphane Verguet, Marcia C Castro

Abstract

Introduction The identification of spatial–temporal clusters of forced migrant mortality is urgently needed to inform preventative policies and humanitarian response. As a first step towards understanding the geography of forced migrant mortality, this study investigates spatial–temporal patterns in death at a global scale.

Methods We used information on the location and dates of forced migrant deaths reported in the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrant Project from 2014 to 2018. Kulldorff’s spatial–temporal and seasonal scans were used to detect spatial–temporal and temporal heterogeneity in mortality.

Results A total of 16 314 deaths were reported during the study period. A preponderance of deaths occurred at sea each year (range 26%–54% across 5 years). Twelve spatial–temporal clusters of forced migrant mortality were detected by maximum likelihood testing. Annually, the period of August–October was associated with a 40-percentage-point increase in the risk of mortality, relative to other time periods.

Conclusions Death during forced migration occurs close to national borders and during periods of intense conflict. This evidence may inform the design of policies and targeting of interventions to prevent forced migration-related deaths.

Key questions

What is already known?

  • Forced migrants encounter myriad dangers on their journeys to safer destinations.

  • Criminalisation of irregular entry, temperature and weather patterns and difficult terrain are known risk factors along migration routes.

What are the new findings?

  • This is the first analysis of forced migrant mortality at a global scale—highlighting spatial–temporal patterns of risk as forced migrants cross state borders.

  • Twelve spatial–temporal clusters of forced migrant mortality, in which the observed number of deaths statistically exceeded the annual mean number of deaths per area, were identified.

  • The period of August–October was associated with a 40-percentage-point increase in the risk of mortality, relative to other time periods.

What do the new findings imply?

  • Forced migrant deaths do not occur at random but instead are clustered in spatial–temporal patterns.

  • Clusters of forced migrant mortality occur proximate to borders and intense conflict, which may inform targeted monitoring and prevention activities