GENEVA – In marking International Migrants Day, the United Nations says at least 3,174 migrants have died this year while seeking safety from persecution and violence or in hopes of bettering their impoverished lives.
The International Organization for Migration says the number of recorded migrant deaths is likely to be highly underestimated. It says tens of thousands of people embark on dangerous journeys across deserts, jungles and seas. Many thousands do not survive but their deaths, it says, are not recorded.
The IOM says the overall number of global migrant deaths recorded this year is lower than in previous years. However, it notes fatalities have increased significantly on some of the migratory routes. For example, IOM spokesman Paul Dillon says at least 593 deaths have been documented in 2020 on route to Spain’s Canary Islands, compared to 45 fatalities in 2018.
“An increase in migrants’ deaths was also recorded in South America compared to previous years, with at least 104 lives lost—most of them Venezuelan migrants—compared to fewer than 40 in all previous years,” said Dillion. “This includes at least 23 people who drowned off the coast of Venezuela last weekend. Some 381 men, women and children also lost their lives on the U.S.-Mexican border.”
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This year, migration within and on route to Europe claimed the largest number of lives, more than 1,700. Dillon says a significant number of the deaths were among migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
He says migrants are not just statistics. He says they are people who make significant contributions to their countries of migration, especially in this time of coronavirus.
“What we see every day are the images of doctors and nurses and support staff in health care facilities and old age homes, many of whom are migrant workers contributing to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives, putting in the long arduous hours on behalf of those who are stricken with the virus,” Dillion said.
Dillon says migrants should be welcomed and appreciated for the services and beneficial roles they perform in their adopted societies instead of being vilified and subjected to discrimination.