A boy believed to be two years old was among more than 100 migrants abandoned on a highway in southern Veracruz on Monday after traveling in suffocating conditions in a semitrailer, the National Immigration Institute (INM) announced.
A man traveling in the trailer that was transporting the migrants on the highway between Ocozocoautla, Chiapas, and Las Choapas, Veracruz, was found dead at the same location, having apparently suffocated in the crowded vehicle.
The INM said in a statement that along with members of the National Guard it provided assistance on Monday morning to eight Central Americans who had been traveling in the crowded semitrailer, including the two-year-old boy.
All showed symptoms of dehydration and asphyxiation, the INM said. “Unfortunately, the lifeless body of a young man was found,” the institute said, adding that he was approximately 25 years old.
The INM released a photo of the boy that showed him standing on the shoulder of the highway surrounded by half-filled water bottles, empty snack packets, strewn clothes and black trash bags. The child was shirtless and appeared to have his hands on his face in the partially blurred photo. The INM also published a second photo showing the boy fully dressed and sitting on an immigration worker’s lap.
None of the adults assisted by the INM said they were relatives of the boy. The institute said it notified Veracruz child protection authorities about his discovery so that they would take him into their care, adding that a Guatemalan consulate was contacted because there were indications that the boy might be of that nationality.
The migrants assisted by the INM said that some of their traveling companions had fainted while traveling in the crowded trailer because of a lack of air and heat. Others shouted and banged on the doors of the vehicle to urge the driver to stop, the institute said.
The semitrailer eventually stopped and “one of the people smugglers, or supposed ‘guides’ opened one of the doors,” the INM said, adding that most of the men and women jumped out of the vehicle and fled.
“Eight people couldn’t escape,” the INM said, adding that some got out of the semitrailer to lie on the side of the road, while others remained inside the vehicle, apparently because they were too weak to move.
They were taken to a nearby INM facility, where they were given medical treatment and food.
Federal authorities launched an operation to locate and arrest the people transporting the migrants but no arrests were reported.
Fleeing violence and poverty at home and encouraged by the arrival of United States President Joe Biden in the White House, large numbers of Central American migrants have traveled through Mexico this year to seek asylum in the U.S.
Thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed into the United States in 2020, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
During United States Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Mexico City earlier this month, Mexico and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a strategic partnership to address the lack of economic opportunities in northern Central America, namely Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.