US-Mexico border ‘is world’s deadliest’
American officials say hundreds of migrants fall prey to heat stroke in summer and hypothermia in winter
Geneva — The US-Mexico border is the world’s deadliest land migration route, according to UN migration agency figures published on Tuesday, with hundreds losing their lives trying to make perilous desert crossings.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) documented 686 migrant deaths and disappearances on the frontier in 2022, but the actual figure is probably higher with data going missing including from the Texas border county coroner’s offices and the Mexican search and rescue agency.
In a landscape of sweeping desert, canyons and cactus-studded hills, migrants fall prey to heat stroke in summer and hypothermia in winter, US border officials have said. Some bodies are never found.
IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon said that the figures recorded “represent the lowest estimates available”.
“The alarming figures are a stark reminder of the need for decisive action to create regular legal migration pathways,” he told reporters in Geneva.
IOM said that nearly half of the deaths recorded last year were linked to the crossing of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts.
The number of deaths and disappearances documented by IOM along the border represents nearly half of the 1,457 cases recorded throughout the Americas in 2022.
“One of the most concerning trends that IOM has seen in the Americas was the increase in deaths on migration routes in the Caribbean,” said Dillon.
He said that 350 deaths were documented in 2022, compared with 245 in 2021 and fewer than 170 in prior years. Most of the victims on Caribbean migration routes were people from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.
The Darien Gap, a jungle border crossing between Panama and Colombia, saw 141 documented migrant deaths in 2022, according to IOM.
“The remote and dangerous nature of this area and the presence of criminal gangs along the route means that this figure likely does not represent the actual number of lives lost,” said Dillon.
Panama announced new measures last week to curb rising migrant crossings through the Darien Gap, which reached a record high in 2023.
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