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US-Mexico border deadliest for migrants – IOM

5 October 20230 comments

The US-Mexico border is the world’s most deadly land route for migrating asylum-seekers, according to a new report from the International Organization for Migration (IOMN.

IOM, the UN’s migration agency, says it has documented 686 deaths and disappearances of asylum-seekers on the US-Mexico border in 2022, making it the deadliest land route for migrants worldwide on record.

The agency said the number represented almost half of the 1,457 asylum-seeker deaths and disappearances recorded throughout the Americas in 2022, the deadliest year on record since IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) began in 2014.

IOM’s MMP annual report, which highlights the growing death toll and increasing risks that asylum-seekers face throughout the region, said the figures were probably the lowest estimates available as many more deaths were likely to have gone unrecorded because of a lack of data from official sources. 

The report said the number of deaths and disappearances in the US-Mexico border had decreased by 8 per cent from the previous year but the true figure for 2022 is likely higher because of the missing data.

About half of the deaths on the US-Mexico border were linked to the perilous crossing of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, more than other desert regions where irregular asylum-seekers’ passing is prevalent.

The report said 212 people died in the Sahara Desert in 2022. However, due to the remoteness of these areas, data in this regard is likely incomplete.

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

“Enhancing data collection is crucial. Ultimately, what is needed is for countries to act on the data to ensure safe, regular migration routes are accessible.”

The report also said one of the most concerning trends was the increase in deaths on migration routes in the Caribbean, with 350 documented in 2022 compared to 245 in 2021 and fewer than 170 recorded in all prior years. People from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba accounted for the highest number of migrant deaths in the Caribbean. 

The Darien Gap, an inhospitable jungle border crossing between Panama and Colombia, saw 141 documented migrant deaths in 2022. The remote and dangerous nature of this area and the presence of criminal gangs along the route means that this figure may not represent the actual number of lives lost.

Surveys of people who made the crossing conducted by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix revealed that 1 in 25 respondents reported someone they were traveling with had gone missing.

The IOM report said that while these surveys were not representative, they are of grave concern considering that 250,000 people arrived in Panama via the Darien in 2022, and more than 300,000 people have made the journey in 2023.

“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.” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

IOM said the numbers reflect the fatal consequences of the “lack of safe and regular mobility options”.

“Addressing the root causes of irregular migration, enhancing humanitarian assistance, and providing better protection for vulnerable groups are essential steps in safeguarding the lives of migrants seeking a safer future,” the agency said.

The full report on 2022 migrant deaths in the Americas is available here The Americas | Missing Migrants Project (