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Migrant deaths still high, despite decrease in border apprehensions

(AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)

PHOENIX — The number of migrants who died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border rose last year despite a significant drop in border apprehensions, a new report by the United Nation’s migration agency found.

The report by the International Organization for Migration showed 412 migrant deaths were reported along the southern border in 2017.

Of the migrant deaths reported last year, five were children, 22 were women, 269 were men and 116 have not been identified.

The number rose slightly from the previous year, when 398 migrant deaths were reported.

“Migrant deaths are up by a small percentage – 3 to 4 percent by my calculation – over the previous year,” Joel Millman, a spokesman for the organization, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“Nonetheless, to have apprehensions be so much lower and still have deaths be much of the same, in fact a little higher, is worth noting, which is why we put the report out.”

Last year, U.S. Border Patrol saw a 44 percent drop in apprehensions. The agency detained 341,084 migrants trying to cross the southwest border in 2017, compared to 611,689 in 2016.

Millman said Texas saw the biggest increase in migrant deaths. A total of 191 migrant deaths were reported last year, up 26 percent from 2016.

He said the increase is mainly due to heavy rainfall last year, which made crossing the Rio Grande in Texas more dangerous.

“We believe that people who trafficked migrants would go back to places that they always regarded as shallow and safe and easy to cross,” he said. “Instead, they weren’t and people were carried off and drowned.”

In Arizona, the number of migrants who died trying to cross the border stayed about the same. According to the IOM report, 160 migrant deaths were reported in the Sonoran desert last year and 163 the previous year.

Millman said the main causes of death for migrants trying to cross the border through Arizona include dehydration and hyperthermia.

“Conditions across the desert have always been deadly,” he said.

The report’s count of migrant deaths was determined using data from various sources, including coroners, medical examiners, and sheriff’s offices in U.S. border counties. Media reports from the Mexico side of the border were also used.

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