|For Central American migrants hoping to make it to the US, Mexico can be the most dangerous part of their journey [GALLO/GETTY]|
Susanah squats down by the side of the train tracks in Tultitlan, central Mexico. The 32-year-old Honduran is one of the many Central Americans passing through Mexico on freight trains on their way to the US in a journey that has become increasingly dangerous.
“There are police that want to rob you. They take you and say, ‘get out everything you’ve got’. It happened to me in Orizaba, they took everything from me,” she says.
It is not only the police that appear to be taking advantage of the undocumented – and thus invisible – population travelling through Mexico.
El Universal, an influential Mexican newspaper, says that there is increasing sex trafficking by drug-linked gangs who are taking advantage of the Guatemalan and Honduran women and children passing through the country.
|Violent attacks against migrants using freight trains to reach the US are common [EPA]|
They are frequently hauled off the trains and sold into sex slavery for as little as $40.
At present there are 20,000 prostitutes from Central America in Mexican brothels according to El Universal.
Susanah says that the young girls are especially at risk.
“There are girls that are 15, 16 years old, and those are the ones most at danger of being abused.”
Even the Mexican contractors that migrants rely on to guide them are not to be trusted. Many turn their charges over to be kidnapped by gangs who then beat them to obtain phone numbers of family members in the US. Once they have the numbers they call these relatives to extract a ransom.
Javier Melendez of Mexico’s Commission for Human Rights says that the migrants can not turn to the Mexican police for help.
“The migrants can be subject to extortion by the police, the robbery of their things, beatings and other things, probably even kidnappings, which would be the worst case scenario.”
Grupo Beta, a government agency set up by the Mexican government to help migrants, has recorded a total of 75 migrants injured while travelling through the country.
For a nation with a long history of migration, it seems surprising to many that Mexico should be so unforgiving to those travelling with the same objective.
Paty Camarena is a local volunteer who provides food for the Central American migrants.
“I love my country but there is a double moral standard here. We should learn how to treat our migrating neighbours to the South so that our neighbour to the North treats us with respect and produce more guarantees that reform migration as well.”
The growing antipathy toward migrants seems due to the many who do not complete their journey to the US and are, therefore, forced to remain in Mexico.
Remittances dry up
The economic crisis has fuelled this phenomenon as relatives in the US suddenly stop sending the remittances that migrants need to continue their journey North.
Marco Antonio Calzada Arroyo, the mayor of Tultitlan, says that migrants then frequently turn to illegal activities to survive.
“Now they have become mixed with people from organised crime; with gangs that recruit them and get them to rob or commit crimes.”
Arroyo, did not, however, produce any figures to support this statement.