Panama City, (EFE) lost,” said the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The IOM Missing Migrants Project recorded the death or disappearance of 1,338 migrants in mobility in the Americas in 2022, the highest number since this initiative began in 2014 and which is part of an unprecedented migratory flow to the north.
Already in 2021 the figure of 1,249 migrants in mobility dead or missing marked a milestone and left behind the 798 of 2020. While between January 1 and February 19 of this 2023, 216 cases were registered.
“There is an upward trend. Migrants who are part of all the flows of human mobility that cross our region are dying on the migratory routes, ”he said in an interview with EFE Edwin Viales, Regional Monitor for the Americas of the IOM Missing Migrants Project.
More than 7,489 deaths or disappearances since 2014
From 2014 to February 19, 7,489 migrants died or disappeared on migratory routes in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, according to the IOM program.
The vast majority of these cases were registered on the US-Mexico border (4,353), and on the routes from Cuba to the US (479) and from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico (300).
The main causes were drowning (2,613), mixed or unknown (2,576), traffic accidents (977) and extreme environmental conditions/lack of adequate shelter, food and water (735).
The death on February 15 of at least 38 migrants in a traffic accident in Panama, one of the worst in the country’s history, and at least 17 others in similar circumstances in Mexico, has once again put the focus on the urgent need to open more regular routes to migration.
“The best way to reduce these deaths and disappearances is to create more and better regular migration routes (…) if not, these numbers will continue to increase,” Viales said.
The immense underreporting of migrants
The Missing Migrants Project warns that its figures “should be considered as a minimum estimate of the true number of lives lost during migration,” given the challenge involved in collecting them.
This is especially the case in the Caribbean and also in the Darién Gap, the border jungle between Panama and Colombia that was crossed in 2022 by a record number of 248,284 irregular migrants heading to the United States, according to Panamanian data.
Between 2014 and 2022, “207 deceased and disappeared migrants” were registered in the Darién, but “it is evident that there are many more”, since “multiple testimonies tell us that in the jungle there are thousands of remains of unidentified migrants and without a grave dignified,” Viales said.
This is a situation “very similar to what happens in the Caribbean”, which has “the second highest number of deaths and disappearances of migrants registered by the Program in the region, after the border between Mexico and the United States”, according to the IOM.
According to the Project’s data, at least 349 migrants died or disappeared on maritime routes through the Caribbean in 2022, a record number that left behind the 180 registered in 2021. Since 2020 the registry totals at least 692.
Ghost shipwrecks and swollen rivers
In the Caribbean, “what the Missing Migrants Project has called the Phantom Shipwreck” or the sinking due to extreme conditions of boats with migrants occurs, events that are not known to the authorities or the media.
“It can be said that no one is aware of that incident. We managed to document or trace them because the families themselves go to the media” to report the disappearance, Viales warned.
In the Darién, many of the deaths and disappearances recorded by the Program “occur near large rivers.” Also due to the bite of snakes or spiders, and due to accidents that leave the person badly injured and without the possibility of attention.
“It is well documented that the flows of migrants who cross the Darién are exposed to assaults, accidents, multiple forms of violence including sexual violence, this in men and women, is indiscriminate, due to the presence of organized crime groups” Viales recalled.