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Migrants Crossing US-Mexico Border Dying at Faster Rate. More Deaths in Mediterranean

ROME, Aug 7 2017 (IPS) - While the number of migrants deaths in the Mediterranean Sea has so far in 2017 exceeded 2,350 victims for the fourth consecutive year, migrants crossing the United States-Mexico border are dying at a faster rate in 2017 than in past years, the UN migration agency reports.

Visit to Detention Centers in Libya. During Ambassador Swing’s visit to Tripoli in May, IOM Libya launched a plan to enhance its presence in the country and improve living conditions inside detention centres. This video is a result of a VR training commissioned by the UN and conducted by LightShed. Source: IOM – UN Migration Agency

According to a new briefing from the Berlin-based Missing Migrants Project (MMP) at the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, migrants crossing the United States-Mexico border are dying at a faster rate in 2017 than in past years.

On this, MMP’s Julia Black on 4 August reported: “Some 232 migrant fatalities have been recorded in the first seven months of 2017, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the 204 deaths recorded between January and July 2016.”

Black added: “Fifty bodies were recorded as discovered in July, the most recorded in any month so far this year,” explaining that these remains were located across the border region. “Nine were recorded in various locations along the Río Grande; ten in a truck in San Antonio, Texas; and 16 in other locations in Texas.”

Migrants Crossing US-Mexico Border Dying at Faster Rate in 2017: UN Migration Agency

Fifteen more were recovered in Arizona’s Pima County, a notoriously dangerous crossing, where seasonal temperatures regularly soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) between the months of May and September. So far in 2017, 96 bodies have been recovered in Pima County.

Black said, “These numbers are especially concerning considering that, according to US Border Patrol figures, fewer migrants seem to be crossing into the US in 2017. The US Border Patrol has apprehended 140,024 migrants between January and June 2017, about half the number recorded in the first six months of 2016.”

The briefing reports that IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded more than 1,250 migrant fatalities on the US-Mexico border since 2014.

The “American Dream”

MMP staffers note each one of these deaths are individual tragedies that serve as reminders of the many migrants who continue to risk their lives pursuing their “Sueño Americano” – or American Dream, according to Black.

“Though the story of the ten migrants who lost their lives trapped in the back of a tractor-trailer in Texas on Sunday was widely covered by English- and Spanish-language media, most of the deaths recorded in the border region occur in ones and twos. Those deaths, recorded almost daily during summer months, rarely make headlines.”

The most recent incident recorded on the border region was the death of a five-year-old child migrant drowned in the Río Grande near Tamaulipas, Mexico, on Wednesday. Reports indicate that the child’s father also went missing during the river crossing, she added.

“Many of those pursuing ‘el Sueño Americano’ travel from Mexico to Texas, meaning that they must cross the swift-flowing Río Grande to reach the US. The briefing reports that in 2017, 57 people have drowned in Though migrant fatalities on the US-Mexico border represent 65 per cent of the total number recorded in the Americas, it is likely that many migrant deaths occur in Central and Southern America that go unrecorded.”

Notably, several bodies, presumed to be migrants, were seen floating off the coast of Nicaragua on Tuesday; another migrant was killed near Oaxaca, Mexico on Sunday after being struck by a train; another, from El Salvador, was the victim of a stabbing, she added.

The briefing reports that the true number of migrant fatalities in 2017 is likely to be higher than the data from Missing Migrants Project indicate. “It’s something that is true for all regions of the world, unfortunately,” concluded Black.

2,397 Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

Meantime, the UN Migration agency on the same day, 4 August, reported that 115,109 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 2 August, with almost 83 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 261,228 arrivals across the region through 2 August 2016.

Credit: IOM

For its part, IOM Rome reported that according to official figures of the Italian MOI, 95,215 migrants arrived in Italy by sea this year, which is slightly (2.73 per cent) fewer than last year during the same period, when 97,892 arrived, highlighting a trend that IOM has observed of slower traffic to Italy during mid-summer, and fewer deaths (approximately half of those recorded in July 2015 and 2016).

Top Ten Nationalities

Italian authorities on August first week released the latest roster of top-ten nationalities to arrive as migrants traveling by sea from Africa through the end of July, added IOM.

Nigeria continues to be the year’s top sender nation with 15,317 arrivals, followed by Bangladesh (8,687), Guinea (8,631), Cote d’Ivoire (7,905) and Mali (5,526).

Bangladesh, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco continue to show sharp increases over levels of arrivals at this time last year. Those countries that now are sending fewer migrants include Eritrea – down more than 50 per cent from 2016 – with slighter decreases as well for Nigeria, Sudan and the Gambia.

IOM’s Flavio Di Giacomo further noted total arrivals by sea to Italy during the month of July came to 11,461, a decrease of more than 50 per cent compared with the total registered in July 2016: 23,552.

Asphyxiation on Board

Meanwhile, IOM Athens reported that 73 migrants and refugees arrived at various Greek locations (Lesvos, Rhodes, Megisti) between 31 July and 2 August. The total number of arrivals by sea to Greece as of 2 August is 11,353. This compares with 160,515 at this time last year.

“The latest fatalities in the region were reported on Tuesday (1 August) when eight corpses were recovered on a dinghy off the Libyan coast – it is likely the migrants died from asphyxiation on board. They were expected to be brought to land in Italy on Friday 4 August.”

These deaths bring the total of fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2017 to 2,397, IOM reports, adding that although this figure trails the number of deaths (3,193) recorded at this time last year, it nonetheless marks the fourth consecutive year migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea have exceeded 2,350.

Worldwide, the IOM Missing Migrants Project reports that there have been 3,408 fatalities in 2017 through 2 August, with the Mediterranean region accounting for the largest proportion of deaths – over two-thirds of the global total.

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