Between September 18 and October 3, Mexican authorities arrested nearly 30,000 migrants trying to travel to the United States on the roofs of freight trains. The Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) announced this on Friday.
The INM itself calls the arrests ‘rescues’, but in most cases it concerns migrants and refugees who have been deported to their home countries after their arrest. It includes large numbers of Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans.
Known as ‘La Bestia’ (‘The Beast’), trains have become a common mode of transport in recent decades, especially for Central Americans hoping to reach the US in search of a better life. For years, Mexican authorities turned a blind eye to migrants boarding trains, but this ended after 2014 under US pressure.
However, this has changed in recent months. The number of Central and South Americans traveling through Mexico to the United States has increased sharply recently and has become a hot political issue in Mexico and its northern neighbors. Presidential elections will be held in both countries next year.
For years, the United States has exerted enormous pressure on Mexico to stem the flow of migrants. So since 2014 Mexico has militarized the southern part of the border with Guatemala. With soldiers lining highways and dozens of checkpoints, the country has increased the number of arrests and deportations of immigrants without proper documentation to record levels.
The trains were given their nickname because of the great dangers involved in traveling this route. For more than 3,000 kilometers through Mexico, migrants are attacked not only by Mexican authorities, but also by criminal gangs that kidnap, threaten and murder tens of thousands of migrants every year. Migrants fall from trains and are seriously injured.
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