Building a Log of Refugee Boats in the Mediterranean

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What was the Ghost Boat, exactly? Nobody’s sure.

It was probably a single vessel. It most likely left Zuwarah in northwestern Libya on June 28th or June 29th 2014. It was one of at least 23 journeys believed to be operated by a single smuggling ring last year.

But because everyone who was supposed to be on the boat is missing, we don’t even know exactly what it is we’re looking for: What size, condition, or even type of craft it might have been.

That’s not unusual. More than 175,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea, from North Africa to Europe in 2014 — but even the data that was recorded about these journeys is spotty, incomplete and often contradictory.


What we need

We want to trace every journey made in the same area at a similar time and identify every boat used — particularly those that may have been operated by the same smugglers. This will help us identify what type of craft the Ghost Boat was, and build up a database of the types of vehicles used for these crossings.


What we have

We are currently working from two public sources of data about boat journeys: The International Organization for Migration keeps track of many incidents where people have gone missing, while the Migrants Files maintains a database with a significant number of incidents.


How you can help

We’re keeping a running database of incidents of boats that are reported to have left from Libya or Tunisia in June and July 2014. By searching a variety of sources — media reports and images, statements from non-governmental organizations, governmental sources, and even social media shared by refugees themselves — we can build a more accurate picture of the traffic last summer.

Here are some guides on how to search, cross-reference and verify information online, courtesy of First Draft.


How to share information with us

If you find anything that might be useful, then respond to this post. When you’ve written down what you’ve found, hit “publish”.

We will work to verify and cross reference incoming information and update the database.

View the current log