Migrants were stranded in Mexico last Friday (29), kilometers from the border with the United States, after the freight train they were traveling on stopped abruptly, amid the continued suspension of dozens of north-bound carriages.
Hundreds of migrants were seen by a Reuters witness aboard a train stopped in a desert area near Villa Ahumada, about 123 km from the border city of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
“They’re treating us like animals,” said Sasha Pacheco, who was on the stopped train, surrounded by her family, including a baby. “We’re in the desert, there’s only one tree for shade and we’re only an hour from our destination, but it would take a day walking with a baby.”
“Why would they take us if they’re going to do this to us?” she asked, adding that there were no options to take buses or taxis from where they were.
The attempted crossing of the American border by South American and Central American migrants on freight trains through Mexico has been happening for years. Collectively, these trains are known as “the beast”, due to the risks of falls, death and amputations on the roof of cars or other open parts of the locomotives.
Around 60 northbound freight trains, operated by Mexican company Ferromex, have been stopped in recent weeks after at least six migrants died or were injured en route. The company later said it had resumed some routes where there was no known “elevated risk.”
Posters on the side of the train stopped in Villa Ahumada said “Thank you, Ferromex”, placed by migrants who thanked them at the beginning of the journey on the locomotive, before the abrupt stops that left many of them with no alternative but to walk the rest of the way to the border.
Grupo México, owner of Ferromex, could not be contacted about the sudden stop of the train with migrants on board near Villa Ahumada. Earlier, a spokesperson said they had no additional updates to share on the exact number of trains that were stuck. “The concentrations of migrants continue to be monitored. Trains are moved to ensure the continuity of traffic, but we avoid situations of high risk for people and operations,” he said.
Venezuelan Marlon Vera, who had been on his migration journey for two months, told Reuters that the train he was traveling on had stopped for several days before being stopped again near Villa Ahumada. “We are without food, without water, facing the cold and the heat.”
Last week’s train stoppage caused around US$1 billion (R$5.15 billion) worth of goods to get stuck at the border, according to authorities in the state of Chihuahua.
Meanwhile, further east, in the border town of Piedras Negras, which is close to Texas’ Eagle Pass, Venezuelan Jose Julian said he was also stranded after the freight train he was traveling on stopped.
He said he boarded a locomotive along with about 2,000 other migrants in the Mexican city of Monterrey several days ago, but somewhere past Torreon, the train stopped. “They left us in the middle of the desert,” he said. “They didn’t care that there were children in the group.” Julian reported that it took him ten hours on foot to reach the next town and, in total, three days to see the US border.