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IOM: 500-plus Migrants Have Died in Americas in 2019

FILE - Central American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, walk in Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico, April 12, 2019.

GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration said Friday that deaths on migratory routes in North and South America had reached a grim milestone of more than 500 this year. Of those, 247 occurred on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The latest statistics showed migrant deaths had increased by more than one-third over the same period last year. The U.N. migration agency said women and children accounted for one-fifth, or 107, of those known to have died in the Americas in 2019.

IOM spokesman Joel Millman said that the deaths not recorded on the U.S.-Mexico border occurred in Central America, near Caribbean Sea islands or in South America.

"The turmoil in Venezuela — where over 4 million migrants have left the country since 2015 — may account for much of 2019's fatalities surge in recorded data,” he said. “This year, IOM has reported 89 confirmed fatalities of Venezuelan nationals, whose deaths were recorded across South and Central America as well as in the Caribbean Sea."

Millman said this year's total of 514 recorded deaths did not include at least 11 deaths in custody — eight in detention centers in the United States and three in Mexico. Nor, he said, does the total include at least 50 as yet uncorroborated cases in Mexico and in Panama's Darien Jungle.

"In the last 10 days, since our last update, 15 people were recovered in inland Texas and three were recovered after they had drowned crossing the Rio Brava River [the Rio Grande],” he said. “So, that is 18 people in 10 days, just in that tiny stretch of the border."

The IOM said the causes of migrant deaths are wide-ranging. It said most result from traffic accidents, followed by accidents along railways, dehydration or exposure, and violent crimes such as homicides. It said 19 people had died this year because of sickness or lack of medical attention.

But the cause of the largest number of fatalities, more than 100, was listed as "unknown." That, the report said, is because many migrants' bodies are not found for weeks or months after their deaths, making a proper assessment difficult if not impossible.