GENEVA (AP) — More than 500 migrants have lost their lives in the Americas so far this year, about a 33% increase from a year ago, the U.N. migration agency said Friday.
International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman said that “turmoil” in Venezuela may account for “much of 2019’s fatality surge.” More than 4 million people have left Venezuela since 2015.
IOM has confirmed 89 deaths of Venezuelans this year, second only to more than 100 who were of unknown nationalities.
In total, 514 people have died this year in the Americas through Aug. 14, up from 384 a year ago. It’s the fastest that the 500 mark has been reached since IOM began counting in 2014.
Millman told reporters in Geneva that the death rate on the U.S.-Mexico border hasn’t changed much in the last six years of tracking such figures, now still amounting to about one per day.
Overall, just over half of the deaths this year — 259 — were caused by drowning, such as through shipwrecks in the Caribbean or failed river crossings. About 65 were from highway crashes, and around 20 each on railroad routes, from dehydration or exposure, violence including homicide, and sickness or lack of medical care.
Millman said the figures don’t include deaths of people in detention: 11, including eight in the U.S. and three in Mexico.