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Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard

Smuggling migrants can be lucrative: minister says it generates US $14 billion a year

Smugglers charge as much as $15,000 per person

The regional migrant smuggling business is worth an estimated US $14 billion a year, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Wednesday.

He told reporters that a network of migrant smugglers operates in Central America and parts of South America and charge people thousands of dollars for clandestine travel to the United States via Mexico.

The smugglers collaborate with drug cartels to move migrants but their sphere of influence is greater than that of those criminal groups, the foreign minister said.

“… They’re putting a lot of people at risk, that’s why this investigation is important,” Ebrard said, referring to a multinational  migrant smuggling probe launched after the December 9 accident in Chiapas that claimed the lives of 57 migrants traveling in a semi-trailer.

“… As far as I know an investigation of this magnitude has not been carried out for a long time. To give us an idea [of migrant smugglers’ profits] they’re charging people US $15,000 from Ecuador, $5,000 or $6,000 from Guatemala, so we’re talking about a business that is estimated at about $14 billion a year,” he said.

Ebrard said that the countries participating in the probe – Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the United States – are sharing intelligence they have gathered about migrant smuggling.

They are also collaborating to identify and apprehend the smugglers involved in moving the more than 150 migrants who were killed or injured in the crash on the Chiapa de Corzo-Tuxtla Gutiérrez highway. A report on the progress of the investigation will be given in January, Ebrard said.

Most of those killed in the accident were Guatemalans, but the tractor-trailer was also carrying people from other countries in the region. The majority of migrants who enter Mexico en route to the United States cross into the country via Chiapas’ porous border with Guatemala.

An average of 4,026 migrants — largely from Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — have entered Mexico each day this year, a 44.5% increase over 2020.

With reports from Milenio and El País 

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