Department of Viciousness and Stupidity

Death After The Mediterranean

BY Kevin Litman-Navarro

Published August 3, 2018

On April 20, 2018, 19 year-old Snaid Tadese died by suicide in a German asylum center — in an apparent act of desperation, she had strangled her baby before killing herself. Tadese was a refugee, having traveled over 3,000 miles to seek shelter in the European Union.

After successfully escaping the oppresive Eritrean dictatorship, Tadese suffered through the degredation and trauma of travelling across Libya and the Mediterranean as smugglers’ cargo. Upon her arrival in Germany, Tadese and her cohort were subjected to constant police intimidation, late night searches, and threats of deportation. Eventually, she was assigned a room in the small village of Eckolst├Ądt, and promptly separated from her friends, leaving her in solitude as a foreigner who didn't speak German or English.

While her death didn't garner much media attention, her story was covered in the local press, where it was noticed by Dutch advocacy group United for Intercultural Action (UNITED). UNITED entered Tadese's name into “The List,” a running total of all reported migrant and refugees deaths in and on the way to the European Union. As of May 5, 2018, The List contains 34,361 people.

Fortress Europe

While the refugee crisis has ramped up in recent years, UNITED has been tracking migrant deaths dating back to 1993. Their contention is that many of these refugees die because of a set of policies they refer to as "Fortress Europe" — a reference to the territory occupied by Nazi Germany during the second World War.

According to UNITED, these policies are meant to make it difficult for migrants to reach the European Union, forcing many into dangerous situations, like crossing the Mediterranean in an overcrowded boat.

Annual refugee death totals since 1993

Most drown while crossing the Mediterranean, but a handful die every year from other causes.


But restrictive policies towards migrants and refugees also endanger them while attempting to entering the European Union and after they've already crossed the border. Poor conditions in refugee camps and asylum centers can result in disease and malnutrition, and nationalist bigotry towards the migrant population can lead to anything from social isolation to violence.

How Refugees Have Died After Crossing the Mediterranean

Gun violence

Trapped in enclosed spaces

Of the 72 gun homicides in 2017, 67 were commited by

Turkish border guards.

Refugees must become stowaways

to venture across Europe. Hiding in enclosed

spaces often leads to dehydration,

asphixiation, and physical trauma



Escaping law enforcement

Getting caught by the police can result in

deportation for a migrant without an approved

asylum claim. So they run. Across highways,

onto electrified train tracks and off the tops

of buildings.



Car crashes


Smuggles pile large groups of refugees into trucks

to provide cheap passage. Safety isn’t the smugglers’

top priority — when they end up in car accidents,

it’s often fatal.

Death by suicide

Hundreds of migrants have died by suicide in

refugee camps and detention centers. For

some, a rejected asylum claim is the catalyst:

even death can be preferable to deportation.


No one is signing up for the migrant life because they are looking for adventure. Generally, people are fleeing violence, conflict, and otherwise unlivable conditions. A new generation of climate refugees is now being forced to leave their homes, as rising temperatures have led to food shortages in places like sub-Saharan Africa.

Which countries are refugees fleeing?

We only know for about half of them, and for some we only know their home region.


Looking specifically at African refugees, you can see how environmental disasters and violence translate into higher numbers of migrants trying to reach Europe, and, consequently, more deaths.

African Refugee deaths since 1993

2015: Civil war in Somalia, terror groups like Boko Haram,

and food shortages lead to an increase in refugees.

2006: War in Darfur forces tens of thousands

to flee Sudan and Chad.

All this, to quote Vonnegut, because of the stupidity and viciousness of ourselves and of all mankind.