In southern Mexican state of Chiapas, twelve freight trains used by Central American illegal immigrants heading for the United States have been derailed in the past three months, costing twelve lives and many serious injuries.
The trains, known to the immigrants as the Beast, trundle along the length of Mexico, from Guatemala to the United States. Over their roofs they carry illegal passengers who are in constant danger from decapitations at low-hanging obstructions, loss of limbs in machine parts and falling as a result of extreme fatigue.
Fleeing their own countries where they claim life is impossible, the migrants say the dreadful risks are worth it. The Mexican authorities closely guard the stations to stop migrants from boarding the trains. Carlos Bartolo, manager of the ‘Casa del Migrante’, a charity for Central American migrants, says the authorities don’t do enough to ensure the safety of the refugees.
The Central American migrants gamble with their lives every single time they ride these trains in hope of reaching the Unites States.
Human rights organizations say the Mexican authorities need to think less about keeping these refugees out of the United States, and more about their safety as they travel.
This as Mexico announces it will invest over 6 billion pesos ($454.25 million) to triple the speed of a train, known as “La Bestia”, to make it harder for Central American migrants to jump on board as they trek to the United States.
The Chiapas-Mayab railroad begins in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, and connects with a network of rail freight trains that head north. For years, Central American migrants headed for the United States have used “La Bestia,” or “The Beast,” to travel cheaply through Mexico.
But a surge in child migrants arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico this year has led the United States to put pressure on Mexico to tackle the ease with which many Central Americans board the notoriously dangerous train, where rape and death are commonplace.
Nearly 63,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S. border in a year-long surge that has sparked an intense political debate and left the Obama administration grappling for ways to handle the influx and stem the flow of children and families trying to get into the country.
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The Mexican government has recently begun cracking down on “La Bestia,” staging late-night migration busts in the town of Arriaga in Chiapas, where many of the Central American migrants first jump on board.
Announcing the investment in the train line, the telecommunications and transport ministry said in a statement that money would be spent over the next five years, with 1.21 billion pesos spent this year alone, and the speed of the train would be tripled by 2018.
Crumbling infrastructure has meant that “La Bestia” runs slowly and the ministry said some parts of the line are often out of action. By speeding up the train, proponents of tougher regulations argue, it is harder for migrants to jump on.