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Mexico railway firm stops trains as migrants hitch rides

September 20, 2023

Ferromex said the number of migrants in its railcars and railyards has grown "significantly" in recent days. Migrants frequently use trains as a means to travel across Mexico in hopes of reaching the US border.

Mexicans traveling aboard a train in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Migrants travel by trains when they can't afford a bus ticket or a smuggler Image: Jose Luis Gonzalez/REUTERS

Mexican railway firm Ferromex said Tuesday that it would temporarily halt stop operations in northern parts of the country, due to the dangerous risk of migrants hitching rides aboard its trains. 

What do know so far?

The company, which is owned by Mexican conglomerate Grupo Mexico, said it would stop 60 trains on northbound routes. These trains are delivering cargo which fill up 1,800 tractor trailers, meaning the suspensions would likely hurt cross-border US-Mexico trade.   

"There has been a significant increase in the number of migrants in recent days," Ferromax said, while noting that there have been about a "half-dozen regrettable cases of injuries or deaths" due to people hitching rides. 

The company said 1,500 people in recent days congregated at its railyard in Torreon, which is located in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. More than 800 migrants gathered at a freight yard in Irapuato, Guanjuato, which is also in northern Mexico

Hundreds of migrants arrive on the train to Ciudad Juarez, a city in northern Mexico which lies on the US border
Women and children are among those getting on the trains in attempt to reach the US Image: David Peinado Romero/AA/picture alliance

In addition, around 1,000 migrants are believed to have hitched a ride to train cars on the route between the metropolis of Chihuahua and the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.  

A perilous journey

Migrants frequently ride trains across Mexico in hopes of reaching the border to the United States. The migrants are not only from Mexico but from central and South America as well. 

One railroad route, known as the "The Beast," begins in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, close to Guatemala. In addition to the danger of falling off the train, migrants on the route face the possibility of being assaulted or killed by local cartels or gang organizations.  

Migrants arrive in the northern Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez
Some migrants hop between the freight cars, posing a massive risk to their lives Image: David Peinado Romero/AA/picture alliance

The International Organization for Migration has said that 8,200 migrants have died or disappeared in the Americas since 2014. Many of these migrants were traveling to the US through Mexico.   

This year, Mexico is expected to receive an unprecedented number of asylum applications. The director of Mexico's refugee agency, Andres Ramirez Silva, said earlier this month that asylum applications could reach 150,000, exceeding a record 129,000 asylum claims in 2021. 

The Migration Policy Institute, a US think tank, meanwhile, reported that more refugees came to the US in the first eight months of fiscal year 2023 than any year since fiscal year 2017. The US has been giving tens of thousands of grants of temporary status on a monthly basis to people from countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, according to the institute.

wd/jcg (AP, Reuters)