us mexico border
A boy looks at U.S. workers building a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

More than 700 migrants died or disappeared trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico last year, said a new UN study.

A new study has labeled the 2,000-mile (3,200km) border between the U.S. and Mexico the deadliest migration land route in the world.

The study, conducted by the Missing Migrants Project and published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), recorded at least 1,238 deaths during migration in the Americas in 2021, with at least 728 of those deaths occurring on the U.S-Mexico border.

“The number of deaths on the United States-Mexico border last year is significantly higher than in any year prior, even before COVID-19,” Edwin Viales, author of the report, said. “Yet, this number remains an undercount due to the diverse challenges for data collection.”

“Our data shows the growing crisis of deaths during migration in the region, and the need to strengthen the forensic capacity of the authorities to identify deaths on these routes,” he added. “We cannot forget that every single number is a human being with a family who may never know what happened to them.”

The study cites the Venezuelan economic crisis as a major factor that has driven people from their home countries and forced them to take “irregular routes, including overseas crossings to Caribbean nations.”

The dangers of the crossing made headlines last week after the discovery of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, containing 46 migrants who died and 16 who required immediate hospitalization. Some of those taken to the hospital died shortly after arrival.

The victims came from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, highlighting the scope of the migration route. IOM reported that this brought the total number of victims along the border to 493 for 2022 alone.

Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, blamed the tragedy on President Joe Biden’s “open-border policies” and “refusal to enforce the law.”

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also pointed to the U.S. “lack of control” at the border as fueling such incidents.

U.S. Border Patrol officers have encountered record numbers of migrants trying to cross the southern border during the past year, with 239,416 recorded last month and 235,478 the month before that.

The numbers have continued to grow, and the number of deaths has increased as well: The Missing Migrants Project recorded 854 deaths in 2019 and 798 deaths in 2020, making the 2021 figure a startling jump.

But the project stresses that even these numbers do not capture the entire picture due to a lack of official sources to collect data, meaning that the study’s figures represent a significant undercount.

The study ended with a plea for countries to “honor their commitments to save migrant lives and prevent further deaths and disappearances.”

The number of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally fell during 2020, amid a worldwide slump in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with the Trump administration enforcing tough security measures at the border.

U.S. Border Patrol officers encountered more than three times as many illegal immigrants in 2021 as in 2020, and more than 1.5 million arrests have been reported this year, on track to outstrip last year’s record total of 1.7 million.

According to the IOM, around half of those who died or disappeared throughout the Americas in 2021 remain unidentified. Of those who could be identified, Mexicans made up the largest proportion, followed by Guatemalans and Venezuelans.


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