Migrants processed at the US-Mexico border
Migrants processed at the US-Mexico border AFP

The United States-Mexico border has been termed the world's deadliest migration land route by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with at least 686 migrant deaths and disappearances recorded last year.

According to a statement issued by the UN agency Tuesday, the figure represents only about half of the 1,457 migrant deaths and disappearances recorded across the Americas last year. It made 2022 the deadliest year on record since IOM began its Missing Migrants Project (MMP) in 2014, which documented deaths and disappearances in the region due to migration.

"These alarming figures are a stark reminder of the need for decisive action by States," Michele Klein Solomon, IOM Regional Director for Central and North America and the Caribbean, said in the report.

While the data indicates there has been an 8 percent decrease in deaths and disappearances at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2022 from the previous year, the actual figure could be much higher due to a lack of officially recorded data, such as information from Texas border county coroner's offices and the Mexican search and rescue agency.

In this context, Solomon underlined the importance of enhancing data collection to ensure access to safe and regular migration routes. "Ultimately, what is needed is for countries to act on the data to ensure safe, regular migration routes are accessible."

Around 300 of the deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border have been linked to the dangerous crossing of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, significantly more than other desert regions struggling with uneven migration.

The United Nations agency noted that there has been an alarming increase in deaths on migration routes in the Caribbean, from 245 in 2021 to 350 in 2022. The highest number of migrant deaths in the Caribbean was recorded among people from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba.

The Darien Gap, a dangerous jungle crossing route between Panama and Colombia, saw 141 documented migrant deaths last year. Last week, Panama announced new measures to counter rising migrant crossings through the Darien Gap.

"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," IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon told reporters in Geneva.

Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America, said, "The fact that we know so little about migrants who disappear in the Americas is a grim reality."

"The impacts on the families left behind to search endlessly for a lost loved one are profound," Pisani added.

The agency underlined the need for addressing the root causes of irregular migration, strengthening humanitarian assistance, and ensuring better protection for vulnerable groups as key measures for safeguarding the lives of migrants.

Migration between countries in Latin America and the Caribbean has seen a prominent rise in recent years, from 5.3 million migrants in 2010 to 11.3 million in 2020, as per the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) numbers. North America has emerged as the leading destination for people migrating from Latin America and the Caribbean, with more than 2.5 million people crossing the southern border of the U.S.

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