Over 5,000 migrant deaths recorded in Central, North America, the Caribbean since 2014 as number of lives lost continues to grow in 2021

Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Other
8 December, 2021


5,755 deaths during migration across Central, North America and the Caribbean have been recorded since 2014, leaving tens of thousands of family members searching for answers. This ongoing humanitarian crisis is highlighted in a series of reports on missing migrants in the region released by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project today.


The number of deaths recorded has increased on many migratory routes across the region in 2021, with more than 1,060 lives lost. Of these, at least 650 people have died attempting to cross Mexico’s border with the United States already this year, more than in any other year since IOM began documenting deaths in 2014. This increase is of concern considering that most data for this border region is reported only after the year end.


“The rising migrant death toll in the region is highly alarming.” said Michele Klein-Solomon, IOM Regional Director for Central, North America and the Caribbean.


Though the 3,575 deaths documented on the United States-Mexico border since 2014 make up the largest death toll on any single border in the Missing Migrants Project database, many other regions where data are poorer pose comparable risks to people on the move. The Darien Gap, where an increasing number of migrants cross the dangerous jungle region, is marked by hazardous terrain, violence, and countless unverifiable reports of deaths. The 157 deaths documented by IOM since 2014, 42 of which (27%) occurred in 2021, are likely a vast undercount of the true number of lives lost.


Other poorly documented routes include sea journeys used by Venezuelan migrants attempting to reach nearby Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago. Though IOM has recorded 176 deaths on this route since 2014, the likelihood that boats disappear without a trace means that the actual number of lives lost is far higher.


Deaths on routes through Mexico are also poorly documented, but nonetheless IOM accounts for more than 750 lives lost during migration since 2014, excluding those near the northern border with the United States. Most of these records are based only on media reports and estimates of migrant disappearances indicate that far more migrants remain lost and unidentified: the Servicio Jesuita con Migrantes, an organization conducting some of the best practices on searching for missing migrants identified in a new IOM briefing, reported 2,180 migrant disappearances in Mexico in 2015 alone.


Despite calls to prevent further deaths and help families searching for missing migrants, there has not been enough concrete action on this issue. Adopted by an overwhelming number of States the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Objective 8 calls to “save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants.”


Across Central, North America, and the Caribbean, processes currently in place to search for missing migrants are not accessible or effective. As a consequence, civil society organizations often fill the gaps to document and identify cases of missing and deceased migrants, and to address the needs of families left behind.


“Saving lives is a top priority. States and other actors must urgently take more action to address the growing migrant death toll,” said Klein-Solomon. “Families in search of the truth about missing migrant relatives need answers, and policymakers need better data to ensure migration is safe and dignified for all.”


Read more about missing migrants in the Americas in new reports published by the Missing Migrants Project at IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) with support from the Western Hemisphere Program at IOM’s Regional Office for Central and North America and the Caribbean, funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration:

  • Data trends in missing migrants in the Americas (EN | ES)
  • Good practices in searching for missing migrants from civil society organizations in the Americas  (EN | ES)
  • Recommendations for support to families of missing migrants (EN | ES)


Contact: Jorge Galindo, IOM GMDAC, jgalindo@iom.int, +49 1601 791 536

              Jorge Gallo, IOM RO San Jose, jgallo@iom.int.