At least 380 Latin American migrants have died on their journeys this year, many of them Venezuelans drowning in the Caribbean or Central Americans perishing while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.N. migration agency said yesterday. The toll, 50 percent more than the 241 recorded as of mid-June 2018, also coincides with tightened security along the U.S. southern border, which often leads migrants to turn to underground criminal smugglers and take riskier routes, it said.
The overall toll includes more than 80 Venezuelans who have died or disappeared in three shipwrecks in the Caribbean in the past two months. Four million Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled an economic and political crisis, all but 700,000 of them since the end of 2015, U.N. aid agencies said earlier this month. Most went overland to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. But in images reminiscent of desperate Cubans fleeing their homeland in decades past, Venezuelans increasingly are taking to the sea in rickety boats.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch called for better search and rescue operations to save Venezuelans fleeing via the Caribbean. Amid the ongoing refugee crisis in Venezuela, thousands of Venezuelans, desperately attempting to cross the border, now face harsh conditions from neighboring countries. Peru, which had been known as one of the most welcoming destinations for migrants in South America, is the latest South American country to tighten its border policy for Venezuelans.