Media Release 20 June 2021: Fatal Policies of Fortress Europe – More than 44,764 Refugee Deaths at the European Borders


This year on World Refugee Day – June 20, we want to bring the attention of the media, policymakers, and the general public to the situation of the refugees on the external borders of Europe. The mass violations and lack of accountability at the external borders must stop.

To mark International Refugee Day, UNITED for Intercultural Action has published an annual update of the “UNITED List of Refugee Deaths” consisting of 44 764 documented deaths cases of migrants and refugees who died whilst trying to reach Europe between 1993 and June 2021. Unfortunately, over 98% of the migrant and refugee deaths listed have not been identified: ‘No Name.’

Annually, around 20 June, the UNITED List of Refugee Deaths is widely used by artists, activism, media, researchers, and civil society organisations to advocate for safe migration and asylum procedures. In addition, hundreds of activities involving, or based on, the UNITED List of Refugee Deaths are organized across Europe and beyond to call on European policymakers and politicians to stop the deaths by policy. Thus, in June 2021, the  “Name Them by Their Names” nationwide campaign to commemorate more than 44,764 victims of Fortress Europe is taking place in Bern, Basel, Chur, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, St. Gallen, Thun, and Zurich. About 130 organizations are participating in the Name Them by Their Name campaign in Switzerland. For more information about the Europe-wide activities, please check the Facebook page of the campaign.

For more than three decades the situation at external European borders remains life-threatening and killing for refugees and migrants searching for freedom from persecution and life threats.

The EU is investing in securitization by cooperating with a so-called Libyan Coast Guard to protect its external borders, investing 3 billion euros into security tech research following the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015 – 2016. Its Member States are practicing criminalization of solidarity, externalization, and pushback in Italy, Croatia, Malta, and Greece. And Denmark passing legislation allowing it to relocate asylum seekers to third countries outside the European Union while their cases are reviewed to prevent asylum seekers seeking asylum in Denmark. Meanwhile, refugees and migrants face grave human rights violations at European borders and die every day on the way to Fortress Europe that cannot provide safe passage for those in high need of protection.

In its 2020 work program, the European Commission committed to “a more resilient, more humane and more effective migration and asylum system” – which is crucial because for now, the EU has focused too much on preventing refugees and migrants from arriving in the EU, relying on third countries to impose their policies. Therefore, UNITED for Intercultural Action calls on European leaders (the demands are from last year, but I’d like to keep them because they are relevant):

– to finally stop turning a blind eye on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers especially those who perished away unidentified due to its Fatal Policies. It is time to stop the dehumanization of refugees and asylum seekers not only via mass media and populist political statements but also by seeing them only as ‘numbers’. Refugees and asylum seekers are humans beings‘ with families, backgrounds, and identities, not just numbers. We demand action on identifying personalities behind the numbers and informing families;

 provide humane refugee policies – the European Union needs to establish safe and accessible migration policies and asylum procedures;

– all the European Union Member States must provide safe, nondiscriminatory migration and asylum policies and dignity for all asylum seekers and refugees as a minimum standard of the right to asylum.

We demand that death by policy must come to an end!

No More Deaths – Time For Change!

In the ‘‘UNITED List of Refugee Deaths’’, UNITED has been collecting reliable data on refugee deaths related to Fortress Europe since 1993. In the period 1993-2021 at least 44.764 documented refugee deaths can be attributed to the ‘Fatal Policies of Fortress Europe’. Most probably thousands more are never found.

The list summarises information on where, when, and under which circumstances they died. On all death cases, further documentation is kept in the archive. The data are collected through own research, information received from the 550 network organisations in 48 countries and from local experts, journalists, and researchers in the field of migration. Compiled in the ‘UNITED List of Refugee Deaths’ they add up to an impressive listing and a strong campaign statement: No More Deaths – Time For Change!

An updated list is annualy published in the first week of June.
For researchers and media, a more detailed and searchable list (xls format) is available on request.

Campaign information:

Homepage  – Join this campaign on Facebook!

Twitter @UNITED__Network #AgainstRefugeeDeaths


UNITED for Intercultural Action

Amsterdam office

Geert Ates +31-6-48808808

Postbus 413

NL 1000 AK

Amsterdam, the Netherlands


The team of the UNITED List of Refugee Deaths consists of a group of not indifferent volunteers. To be able to continue our work we need your help to pay the rent of the office. Donations – even small – are very welcome to make it possible to keep on working on the List .