Tuesday, April 16, 2024

8 Chinese migrants found dead after boat capsizes near Oaxaca

The bodies of eight Chinese migrants were found on a beach in Oaxaca on Friday after the boat in which they were traveling capsized, state authorities said.

The Oaxaca Attorney General’s Office (FGE) reported that seven women and one man were found dead on Playa Vicente, a Pacific coast beach in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.

INM and Guardia Nacional agents move migrants in Tapachula, Chiapas
The Chinese migrants were traveling from Tapachula, Chiapas towards Oaxaca. (Damián Sánchez/Cuartoscuro)

The migrants had been traveling on a boat operated by a Mexican man that left Tapachula, Chiapas, last Thursday, according to a Chinese man who survived the accident.

The FGE didn’t say what happened to the Mexican captain. In a statement on Saturday, it said it was working with federal authorities and the Chinese Embassy in Mexico to identify the eight Chinese victims.

At a press conference on Monday, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that China was “paying close attention” to the incident in Oaxaca last Friday.

“The Chinese Embassy in Mexico is in close touch with the Mexican side to further verify the information of the deceased and provide assistance to the surviving Chinese national. It has requested the Mexican side to speed up the investigation into the incident and sent a working group to the site of the incident,” said Wang Wenbin.

The intended final destination of the vessel is unclear, but it was possibly heading all the way to the United States.

“Treacherous boat rides up the coast of Mexico are often used by migrants hoping to cross into the U.S. in an attempt to bypass checkpoints on closely monitored land routes,” reported CNN, which described the sea route as “popular but perilous.”

The deceased Chinese migrants almost certainly entered Mexico from Guatemala before paying a migrant smuggler to transport them north by sea. The municipality of Tapachula is located just north of the border with the Central American nation.

The number of Chinese nationals entering Mexico en route to the United States has recently surged.

United States government data shows that more than 37,000 Chinese migrants were detained after entering the U.S. via its southern border without authorization in 2023, a figure almost 10 times higher than that recorded the previous year. An average of just 1,500 Chinese nations per year were detained by United States authorities at or near the U.S.-Mexico border during the decade before 2023.

The New York Times reported in December that “a growing number of Chinese” had entered the United States in 2023 “through the Darién Gap, exceeded only by Venezuelans, Ecuadoreans and Haitians, according to Panamanian immigration authorities.”

The Darién Gap is a jungle region amidst which the border between Colombia and Panama is located. If they are able to get through the treacherous jungle, migrants still face a long and dangerous journey via Central America and Mexico to get to the United States, whose government has recently pressured its Mexican counterpart to do more to stem northward migration.

The Times reported that Chinese migrants — both affluent people who seek to migrate legally to the U.S. and poorer folk who attempt to reach the country via the Darién Gap and Mexico — are escaping “bleak economic prospects and political oppression” in China.

Ian Johnson, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in February that “economic reasons” are the main driver of Chinese migration.

The wave of migration from China to the U.S. — via Mexico in a growing number of cases — is “likely to continue for the next several years,” he said.

With reports from EFE and CNN 

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