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Missing Migrants Project Annual Regional Overview: The Americas - January - December 2021

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With 1,238 migrant deaths and disappearances recorded, 2021 was the year with the highest number of lives lost in the Americas since 2014, when the Missing Migrants Project (MMP) began documenting migrant deaths. A significant increase compared to figures recorded in 2020 (798 deaths) and even before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 (854 deaths).

The largest demographic in the available data on migrant deaths in the Americas is unidentified people – nearly 500 individuals died on migratory routes in 2021and remain unidentified. Of those who have been identified,
Mexicans make up the largest proportion (154 individuals), followed by Guatemalans (129 individuals) and Venezuelans (94 individuals).

2021 was the deadliest year at the United States-Mexico border since at least 2014: 728 migrant deaths and disappearances were recorded, 53 per cent more than in 2020.

Maritime routes also claimed many lives in 2021, linked to the extreme environmental conditions at sea and the unseaworthy vessels often used for migration. In 2021, 67 deaths and disappearances were recorded on migratory routes from the Caribbean to the United States. Additionally, 65 deaths and disappearances were recorded on the route from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. More people may have gone missing on these routes in ‘invisible shipwrecks’ – cases where boats disappear without a trace.

In the Darien Gap, 51 migrant lives lost were recorded in 2021. However, anecdotal reports indicate that many migrants die in the Darien Gap and their remains are neither recovered nor reported, so this figure presents only a small fraction of the true number of lives lost.