Maya Hendler
Jun 20 · 3 min read

Globally more than 50 million people have fled their homes to escape persecution, war, violence and/or abuses of their human rights. To put this into perspective, that means every minute 24 people are forced to flee their homes. That is 34,000 people per day.


“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well”

-Warsan Shire


In 1993, 24-year-old Kimpua Nsimba, a refugee from Zaire (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) was found hanged in a detention centre, five days after arriving in the United Kingdom. Since then, 34,570 migrants and refugees have died attempting to flee to the European Union. This number only accounts for deaths that have been reported, the true death toll is certain to be much higher.

A list compiled by United for Intercultural Action, a network that supports migrants and refugees together with 560 organisations in 48 countries across Europe, shows a tally of all the migrants and refugees who died trying to reach Europe: 34,570. Due to a lack of official data, the activist group used NGO records, newspaper articles, and coastguard reports to gather details of the deaths of migrants traveling to Europe since the early 1990s. Some entries have a name and a story, however, the majority are anonymous data points.

As reported by the Guardian, the list is telling of the unrelenting dangers in the process of seeking asylum. Deaths do not occur solely at sea, “but in detention blocks, asylum units and town centres”; 400 listed have taken their own lives and more than 600 have been killed as a result of violence.

The detention of asylum-seekers and refugees has become commonplace in a number of countries, resulting in serious lasting effects on individuals and families. In these situations, women and girls are exposed to greater risks including harassment, the threat of gender-based violence, and health risks.

Since 2006, artist Banu Cennetoğlu has facilitated up-to-date and translated versions of “The List” in several countries using public display structures such as ad-boards and newspaper supplements.

Governments don’t keep these records for the public; they don’t want the public to see these records because it exposes their policies. So you have NGOs trying to put the data together, and that data is incomplete and fragile, but there again someone has to do it. And I want to contribute to that with what I have and what I do — but not by aestheticising it. You cannot represent this kind of darkness through art.” — Banu Cennetoğlu

View a PDF of The List here.


While Banu Cennetoğlu’s “The List” works to bring the global refugee crisis to the forefront of public consciousness and acknowledge each death of the 34,570 listed migrants as an indivudal loss of life, activists are working on the ground to prevent The List from growing any longer.

This work does not come without its own risks. As explained by Pia Klemp, in Europe today “people can be sentenced to prison for saving a migrant’s life”. Pia and her crew rescued over 14,000 people along the Libyan coastline but are now being investigated for “aiding and abetting illegal immigration.”.

“The criminalization of solidarity across Europe, at sea and on land, has demonstrated the lengths to which the European Union will go to make migrants’ lives expendable” — Pia Klemp


World Refugee Day, 20 June 2019, honours the courage and determination of those who have been forced to flee their homes. See how communities around the world are marking the day and calling for worldwide support for the global refugee crisis.
UNHCR Live Blog: World Refugee Day is held amid record displacement.


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Maya Hendler is an Intern at Women’s March Global.

Women's March Global

Women's March Global is dedicated to sharing the stories and voices from our global network of chapters and members around the world.

Maya Hendler

Written by

Women's March Global

Women's March Global is dedicated to sharing the stories and voices from our global network of chapters and members around the world.

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