Stopped train left hundreds of migrants stranded in Mexican desert
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AFP)— Migrants were stranded in northern Mexico’s harsh desert after the freight train they were riding on halted for 24 hours, though they were trundling toward the border again on Saturday.
Around 1,800 people, mostly Venezuelans and Central Americans, became stuck overnight in the northern state of Chihuahua when the freight train they had hitched a ride on stopped without explanation in the Ahumada municipality Friday.
“All night, the cold didn’t let up, and during the day, (there was no relief) from the sun,” Venezuelan Jose Martin told AFP.
These migrants are among many who ride on freight trains as a means of heading north, where they hope to cross into the United States after fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries.
“Not bus or car, nothing, nobody will take us, so we hopped on a train, because supposedly they (trains) don’t stop,” said Maria Fernanda Molina, also from Venezuela.
“But look what happened to us,” she said.
In Mexico, where most railroads are more than 100 years old, freight trains often move slowly or stop altogether — sometimes for the very purpose of discouraging migrants.
Just last week, the country’s largest railway suspended 30 percent of its operations due to being overwhelmed by the flow of foreign stowaways.
In Ahumada, civil protection authorities and local residents brought food and water to the stranded passengers before the train began chugging along again Saturday, bound for the border town of Ciudad Juarez.
There, they will face another long delay as they wait their turn to make their cases to American authorities.
Another group of about a thousand migrants traveling by freight train were also stranded in the wilderness in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas over the weekend, and in the southern state of Chiapas, thousands more were waiting in shelters or on the streets for Mexican authorities to give them permission to begin their journey north.
The Mexican government has said it is overwhelmed by the number of migrants crossing into its territory, while American border authorities reported almost 233,000 crossings into the United States in August.
Mexican authorities said they detained more than 189,000 migrants in September.