West and Central Mediterranean situation


In 2022, deteriorating security and conflicts caused new internal and cross-border displacement in the Sahel region and the East and Horn of Africa, bringing the total number of refugees and asylum-seekers to 11.3 million and internally displaced people to 19.5 million. 

Bernice Kula-Kula, refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a student of the MS Computer Engineering, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence degree at the University of Cagliari and a recipient of the UNICORE scholarship. © UNHCR/Agnese Morganti
Bernice Kula-Kula, refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a student of the MS Computer Engineering, Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence degree at the University of Cagliari and a recipient of the UNICORE scholarship. © UNHCR/Agnese Morganti
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Central Mediterranean Route  

West Mediterranean Route  

North-west Africa Maritime Route  

Year 2021 

Year 2022  

Year 2021  

Year 2022  

Year 2021  

Year 2022  








Disembarkations in North and North-west Africa  







Sea arrivals in Europe 







Dead and missing  







Central Mediterranean route: Algeria, Egypt, Italy, Libya, Malta and Tunisia. 
Western Mediterranean route: Algeria, Morocco and Spain (not including the Canary Islands). 
North-west Africa maritime route: Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco and the Canary Islands – excluding the rest of Spain.  

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2022 Situation overview

In 2022, deteriorating security and conflicts caused new internal and cross-border displacement in the Sahel region and in the East and Horn of Africa, bringing the total number of refugees and asylum-seekers to 11.3 million and internally displaced people (IDPs) to 19.5 million. This represents respective increases of 2.5% and 2% compared to 2021. Many people with international protection needs as well as migrants (mixed movements) continued to arrive in North African countries by land and by air, including from the West and Central Africa and the East and Horn of Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic. In 2022, some 62,000 new asylum-seekers were registered by UNHCR in North Africa countries.  

During the year, 178,558 people left North Africa on dangerous and irregular sea journeys to Europe, 6% more than in 2021. More than one-third of these people were disembarked back in North African countries following recue and / or interception at sea. Some 2,674 people were reported dead or missing in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea and on North-West Africa maritime routes. 3,116 people were reported dead or missing on the same sea routes in 2021. 

117,409 irregular sea arrivals were registered by Italy, Spain, and Malta, a 22% increase from 2021. The top nationalities of arrivals to Italy were Egyptians, Tunisians, Bangladeshis, Syrians, and Ivorians. The number of departures from Libya to Italy increased by 16%, and from Tunisia by 57%. Total arrivals in Italy increased by 62%, reflecting: (i) the evolving context in Libya with a reduction of sea-departures from Western Libya and an increase of the same from eastern Libya; and (ii) more people choosing to depart from Tunisia. In Spain, the top arrivals were Moroccans, Senegalese, Ivorians, Guineans, and Malians. Departures from Morocco and Western Sahara to Spain decreased by 47%, and overall arrivals in Spain were 29% lower than in 2021. Only 444 people arrived in Malta in 2022. Almost half of those arriving in Europe on these routes were nationals of Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia. Based on UNHCR’s research, 47% of all those who travelled these routes and sought international protection in the 27 European Union States, Norway or Switzerland between January 2017 and June 2022 qualified for some form of international protection.  

A total of 61,149 individuals were disembarked in Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia in 2022 representing decreases of 24% in Libya and 38% in Algeria, and a 34% increase in Tunisia - compared to 2021. UNHCR continued to underscore that Libya is not a place of safety for disembarkation for persons rescued and intercepted at sea.  

All routes pass through North Africa, regardless of their origin. Refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as migrants, continued to arrive in countries in North Africa in deplorable conditions, faced with multiple dangers (including from traffickers and smugglers) and limited protection and assistance services available en route or upon arrival. In 2022, the growing number of individuals newly arriving placed additional stress on national asylum systems as well as UNHCR operations.  

UNHCR continued efforts to identify individuals with international protection needs, including through revised approaches to registration, in the context of mixed movements. Priority was given to identifying individuals with critical protection needs and to strengthened presence at disembarkation points. UNHCR also reinforced its communication with communities to inform people on the move about the specific risks associated with onward movement, how to access protection and assistance in the country where they were currently located, and on exploring alternatives to such dangerous journeys.  

UNHCR also continued evacuations of vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers from Libya to Niger, Rwanda, and Italy to save lives and ensure access to protection and durable solutions. 353 vulnerable individuals departed through the Emergency Transit Mechanisms to Niger and 629 to Rwanda. 689 evacuated refugees – 266 in Niger and 423 in Rwanda – were resettled in third countries. 393 refugees were evacuated via the humanitarian corridor to Italy.  

In West and Central Africa, UNHCR supported community-based identification and referral mechanisms along the routes. More than 700 first-contact entry officials and community members along key routes in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger received training from UNHCR and partners on asylum and protection during the year. More than 32,000 people on the move, including 13,000 fleeing conflict and persecution were observed by these officials with referrals of some 2,500 people to protection services, including national asylum systems, as an alternative to risky onward movements. Information on protection risks en route and alternatives to dangerous journeys was provided to over 70,000 people on the move or in host communities. Building on their new “Framework of engagement”, UNHCR and IOM agreed to strengthen collaboration in the region, with a focus on data, referrals, reinforcement of local services, communication with communities, and training.  

In Mali, the number of IDPs increased to 380,000 people, while the IDP population in Burkina Faso was estimated by the Government at 1.9 million by the end of 2022. The Sahel crisis also uprooted an estimated 22,000 nationals from Burkina Faso who fled towards Bénin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo by the end of 2022. Mauritania received regular inflows of Malian refugees and asylum-seekers, bringing their total in that country to 102,500 people, up from 75,900 in 2021.  

Displacement driven by conflict and extreme weather in the East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region raised associated risks of trafficking in persons. At the end of 2022, the region hosted 13.6 million IDPs who were displaced due to complex and interplaying dynamics related to conflict and climate change. In Ethiopia, 1.4 million people were displaced from the western part of Tigray region between November 2020 and the end of 2022, while drought displaced more than 1 million people inside Somalia between January 2022 and early 2023. At 2022 year-end, the number of IDPs within Somalia had risen to 3 million. Sudan hosted 923,600 million refugees and asylum-seekers as well as 3.6 million IDPs, 500,000 of whom were displaced since July 2021.  

In Somalia and Sudan, UNHCR continued route-based awareness-raising on protection risks and available services through “Telling the Real Story”. Some 16,628 households in Sudan’s Kassala and Gedaref states were reached with information about the risks of onward movement and the techniques used by smugglers and traffickers. 600 victims of trafficking were identified in Khartoum, Kassala and Gedaref and provided with legal aid and other services as needed. Throughout 2022, the Office also delivered 10 training seminars on mixed movements and trafficking in persons to Government and law enforcement officials, the judiciary, academia, and journalists in Khartoum, Kassala and Gedaref. 

In Europe, UNHCR continued its long-standing advocacy in favour of the draft EU Pact on Migration and Asylum as a key opportunity to create a common legal framework for fair and fast asylum procedures and solidarity and responsibility-sharing mechanisms among States. UNHCR also continued to advocate for the creation of a robust and predictable State-led search and rescue capacity, coupled with regional cooperative arrangements ensuring predictable, safe disembarkation and subsequent processing of refugees and migrants rescued at sea. UNHCR recalled that saving life at sea is not only a long-standing maritime tradition, but a legal duty of States.  

In Italy, Malta, and Spain, UNHCR continued supporting the Governments to monitor and improve reception conditions and refugee status determination procedures through training, technical support and advocacy. In Italy alone, UNHCR conducted 79 monitoring visits to facilities hosting displaced people and engaged authorities in over 1,000 protection advocacy interventions. In Malta, 63 outreach visits were conducted to localities hosting displaced people to identify needs, provide information and make referrals, especially for the most vulnerable. In Spain, following recommendations from UNHCR, the police authority established a mechanism to facilitate access to asylum procedures in the detention centre on the Canary Islands bringing a marked improvement with timely registration and improved reception conditions for arrivals by sea.  

To help address obstacles to inclusion and integration in Italy, Malta, and Spain, UNHCR expanded its outreach to key stakeholders including municipalities and the private sector. In Italy, UNHCR worked jointly with the municipalities of Bari, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Rome, and Turin to launch the Charter for Integration (Carta per l’integrazione), wherein municipalities agreed to promote integration activities. These include the creation of local multifunctional integration centres (Spazi Comuni), which offer services to displaced people. The network of private companies in the “Welcome Programme” was also expanded in Italy, supporting more than 20,000 refugees with job inclusion pathways and opportunities. In Malta, UNHCR provided basic inclusion and integration support through the provision of information, help with accessing bus cards, opening bank accounts, preparing CVs, and searching for jobs, applying for employment licences, and enrolling in basic language classes.  

The role of refugee led organizations (RLOs) in civil society was strengthened in Italy and Spain, where UNHCR supported 10 new organizations in Italy through the PartecipAzione network, which already comprised 50 organizations across the country. In Spain, UNHCR provided three new RLOs with technical and financial support to enhance their capacity as protection actors. The Office also established two-way communication with 19 new RLOs across Spain, expanding the national RLO network to 35 members as essential partners in ensuring two-way communication with refugee communities, reinforcing information provision, and identifying appropriate sustainable solutions to challenges and protection needs faced by refugees. 

The impact of partnerships  

In support of the European Union and African Union’s Joint Vision for 2030 for an enhanced and reciprocal partnership for migration and mobility, UNHCR’s engagement and advocacy with States on the protection of refugees and migrants travelling in mixed movements on land and sea was strengthened in 2022 through close partnership with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). Cooperation with ICMPD, the facilitator and convenor of the Rabat and Khartoum Processes under the Joint Valletta Action Plan, allowed UNHCR to maintain particular focus on initiatives in asylum and protection and strengthening legal pathways under the Rabat Process. In the Khartoum Process, UNHCR supported return, reintegration, climate action and combating trafficking in persons. Under their new “Framework for engagement”, UNHCR and IOM launched joint initiatives on research, data analysis and communication with communities along the mixed movement routes and worked together to revitalize the AU-EU-UN Task Force on Libya. They also Jointly cooperated with UNODC on the Platform for Action on Cases of Trafficking and Aggravated Smuggling (PACTAS), a pilot project that identified 204 incidents of trafficking involving more than 12,000 victims in 2022. This mechanism aims to identify and report on incidents of trafficking and aggravated smuggling from a variety of sources and make referrals to competent national, regional, and international institutions for appropriate action. 

UNHCR strove to find solutions for unaccompanied and separated children and vulnerable youth, including family reunifications. Partnerships with the International Refugee Assistance Project, RefugePoint and Miles4Migrants resulted in 95 family reunification departures to third countries. This work was reinforced through a cross-regional data collection and research partnership with the Mixed Migration Centre to better understand the experiences, protection needs, intentions and agency of children and youth in mixed movements along the routes. This partnership was also triangulated with United Cities and Local Governments to strengthen urban and city-to-city initiatives focusing on the protection of people on the move.  

UNHCR’s key achievements and results  

In July 2022, as part of its efforts to advocate for better responses to address abuses against refugees and migrants along these routes, UNHCR updated and widely disseminated in English and French a report on the mapping of protection services available to vulnerable people on the move, including victims of trafficking. It underscored the lack of protection services in multiple locations, particularly in remote and border areas. The report was disseminated in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, and Sudan.  

UNHCR sought to increase broad-based cooperation on protection at sea through continued dialogue with Mediterranean and West African coastal States linked to the situation. This aimed to make it easier to disembark people rescued at sea in a place of safety and encourage international solidarity on access to protection and solutions, at a time when States’ policies were rendering search and rescue (SAR) operations more difficult. UNHCR continued to generate information and analysis on sea departures, arrivals, protection incidents at sea, interception, rescue and disembarkations and to advocate with States and regional bodies on related protection priorities. From June 2022, monthly consultations were held with the organizations that formed the UNHCR convened “Central Med SAR Network”, including NGOs, UN, and other international and regional agencies. The network became an active forum to share information on SAR challenges and advocacy opportunities in the central Mediterranean Sea and informed the work of the Inter-Agency Group on the Protection of Refugees and Migrants Moving by Sea at global level.