(CMC) – The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) says a new UN-backed network aims to drive action to save migrant lives in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
“Thousands searching for a better life meet their death crossing deserts, rivers and remote areas in the region,” said the IOM in a statement, adding that its Missing Migrants Project documented 1,433 deaths last year – the highest number since its establishment in 2014.
The project is run by the UN agency’s Global Data Institute (GDI), which last week launched the first Network on Missing Migrants in the Americas.
“The objective is to save lives, improve data collection and support the families of survivors,” IOM said.
“When people have access to safe and regular migration pathways, that increases the likelihood that they can contribute to economic prosperity at home and in their places of destination,” said GDI Director Koko Warner.
She added that a lack of these regular pathways “often has tragic results and is a lost opportunity”.
The IOM said the network connects civil society organisations, government institutions, journalists, and other key actors.
Although the exact number of those who die transiting through the region is unknown, at least 7,495 people lost their lives between 2014 and 2022, according to Missing Migrants Project data.
The IOM said the new network will also work to strengthen national and regional capacities for the collection and exchange of data on migrant deaths and disappearances.
Actions will include issuing recommendations to try and prevent these deaths and disappearances, searching for and identifying the deceased, and providing support and reparation to their families, the IOM said.
“It will also facilitate the creation of strategic alliances among participants by conducting joint investigations, among other measures,” it said.
The launching of the network comes as immigrant advocates in New York have described as “unfathomably cruel” a plan by the United States and Canada to limit the entry of Caribbean and other asylum seekers at their borders.
This came after reports of asylum seekers entering Canada via unofficial points of entry such as Roxham Road along the northern border of the United States.
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organisation that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York, strongly denounced this decision, stating that it “recklessly endangers the lives of asylum seekers”, while demanding expanded protections for asylum seekers.
“Asylum seekers flee violent conditions to build better futures for themselves and their families,” Murad Awawdeh, NYIC executive director, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“They undergo extreme journeys across thousands of miles in search of safety and relief.
“To now restrict the movement of asylum seekers is to recklessly endanger their lives,” he added.