Over 4,000 Central Americans, many from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, are putting their lives in danger while seeking asylum from extreme poverty and hunger.
Around 100 of them were allegedly kidnapped while passing through Mexico as part of a caravan that started in Honduras, the Independent reports. A human rights official suspects the drug cartel Los Zetas is responsible. The safety of the children who were abducted is a major concern — human traffickers in the region are known to hold children hostage to force mothers into sex work.
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The 100 migrants didn’t make it to Mexico City’s Jesus Martinez stadium on Monday, where more than 2,000 people posted up temporarily. The city was getting ready to accommodate as many as 5,000 migrants.
At least 4,600 migrants are now at the stadium here in Mexico City. Thousands more are due to arrive. Among the flurry of activity in the camp....these two, asleep in each other’s arms...there is love in this #MigrantCaravanpic.twitter.com/XsCqpjv5vH— Annie Rose Ramos (@Annie_Rose23) November 7, 2018
Arturo Peimbert, an official for the human rights commission in Oaxaca, told HuffPost Mexico the migrants were kidnapped in the state of Puebla heading toward the country’s capital city. Many of them were children, he said.
Migrants were especially vulnerable in the Puebla region. The federal government has urged transportation companies driving along the caravan route there not to pick up migrants, according to Peimbert. As a last resort, migrants trekked on foot through the largest grave in the country, where hundreds of people have disappeared in the past, he explained.
The US considers The Los Zetas cartel, which Peimbert suspects is behind the kidnapping, to be the country’s most dangerous cartel. They have a history of holding migrants for ransom and killing their families even if they pay to release them, according to Al Jazeera.
President Donald Trump has declared the migrant caravan a “national emergency” and threatened to cut off foreign aid to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala if they do not stop people from migrating "illegally" to the United States. But human rights advocates continue to seek protection for the thousands in search of better lives.
“These families deserve dignity and respect to ensure that no one is illegally returned to situations where they could risk serious harm due to violence,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.