Press Release 20 June 2017

International Refugee Day – 20th June



To mark International Refugee Day, UNITED is publishing an updated edition of its List of Deaths and of its interactive map. We call on civil society to protest against the fatal policies of Fortress Europe that lead to too many deaths of desperate people looking for safe refuge.

This year the Mediterranean has already claimed the lives of 1650. The route from Turkey to Greece has been essentially closed off after the Turkey-EU “migration deal” last year, and as a consequence, the route from Libya to Italy is almost the only remaining way for migrants to reach Europe. It is also the longest and most dangerous and becomes increasingly so as traffickers cram more and more people on smaller and less-equipped boats. At the same time, the number of unaccompanied minors risking the journey is soaring. Due to the blocking of the Balkan route, thousands of migrants are stuck in Serbia, unable either to enter the EU or to go back home.
As the inconclusive meeting of European asylum ministers of June 9th in Luxembourg, unfortunately, has shown again, EU representatives seem unable to come to any consensus on sharing the burden of migratory waves between member countries, with nationalistic interests dominating discussions. Meanwhile, migration continues, with the risky conditions at sea not seeming to provide any discouragement to migrants.

Although many people die in the Mediterranean and this tends to attract the most attention, refugees also die suffocated in trucks, frozen in plane undercarriages, crossing rivers and mountains, hit by traffic, electrocuted on trains, or shot by guards. They die due to the inhumane conditions of detention centers and lack of medical help, commit suicide out of despair, or are killed after being deported back to their country. They are denied both the protection of the authorities and recourse to justice. As diverse as they may seem, all of these deaths are a direct result of border militarization, asylum laws, detention policies and deportations. These are the fatal policies of Fortress Europe: the political agenda which puts the protection of Europe’s borders ahead of the protection of the lives of the world’s most desperate and vulnerable people. This is DEATH BY POLICY.

Wake up the policy-makers! It is extremely important for the purposes of the campaign to raise awareness of this issue throughout Europe. The main targets are media and the general public.

Since 1993, UNITED has been documenting the effects of these fatal policies by compiling a list of the thousands of people who have died in their attempt to reach Europe. Now it includes details of 33.305 people (certainly a lower bound of the real number of victims).
We encourage you to use the list in your own way to reach this goal and to reach out to your media contacts to give the list as much media attention as possible. If you do so, please send us a list of which media you have contacted. At all times, you are also very welcome to contact us whenever you encounter news about refugees that have died as a consequence of Europe’s policies. Especially information from local and non-English-speaking media is highly appreciated. The help of our partner organizations is essential both for helping us compile the list and making it visible!

The UNITED List of Deaths has become a key tool for activists, artists, researchers, and journalists dealing with the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. At the moment, the list can be seen in Hollywood and Milan thanks to Istanbul-based artist Banu Cennetoglu. Earlier this year it has been included in the exhibition “Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and previously it has been used in many other ways and places.
(The UNITED List of Deaths and other UNITED publications can be freely re-used, translated and redistributed, provided source ( is mentioned and a copy is sent to the UNITED Secretariat.)

Why 20th of June?

In order to bring new perspectives to the debate and to highlight the issue of migrant rights and refugee deaths, UNITED has been coordinating an annual campaign around this date since 1996. In 2001, following years of pressure and advocacy from campaign groups such as UNITED, a special UN General Assembly Resolution was adopted to declare 20th June as International Refugee Day. As the former African Refugee Day, this date was chosen as an expression of solidarity with Africa, which is the continent that hosts the most refugees.

The Fatal Policies of Fortress Europe – No More Deaths – Time for Change! Join this campaign on Facebook!
Twitter @UNITED__Network #AgainstRefugeeDeaths