More Than 50 Migrants Killed in Trailer Crash in Southern Mexico

The tragedy in Chiapas is one of the worst involving migrants, most of whom are on their way to the U.S-Mexico border.

Dec 10 2021, 3:18am

MEXICO CITY — At least 52 migrants were killed on Thursday after the tractor trailer they were traveling in crashed in southern Mexico. Dozens of people were flung from the truck by the impact and their bodies strewn across the highway in one of the worst tragedies involving migrants in recent history.

The accident occurred at around 3:30 p.m. when the tractor trailer carrying more than 100 migrants—most of them from Central America—lost control and hit the wall of a pedestrian bridge, causing the trailer to detach from the main cabin and flinging migrants onto the highway, according to local news reports.

Photos and videos from the accident showed a devastating scene: bodies covered with white sheets lying neatly side-by-side on the asphalt; a woman with a white bandage on her head holding her sobbing child as she rocked back and forth, just feet away from a dead man lying face-up on the highway. Dozens more migrants sat dazed on the side of the road as they received medical attention.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered his condolences after the accident. “I am profoundly sorry about the tragedy that occurred when a trailer transporting Central American migrants overturned in Chiapas. It is very painful. I send hugs to the families of the victims.” The governor of the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, where the accident took place, said on Twitter that “responsibility will be determined according to the law.” 

Local authorities, the National Guard, and the Red Cross, among others, were at the scene of the accident providing medical care. The driver of the tractor trailer fled the scene, according to Mexican authorities.

A crackdown by U.S. and Mexican officials on migrants seeking to reach the U.S. has made them more dependent on smugglers who pack them into tractor trailers and transport them through especially dangerous routes. But it hasn’t deterred migration: In fiscal year 2021, 1.7 million migrants were apprehended at the U.S. border, the highest number since at least 1960.

The tractor trailer involved in Thursday’s accident appeared to be traveling from Guatemala en route to Veracruz. Migrants seeking to reach the U.S. commonly travel jam-packed into such vehicles as they traverse Mexico on their way to the U.S. border. It is one of the cheaper deals offered by human smugglers, who adjust their fees depending on the mode of transportation.

In October, for example, more than 650 migrants were discovered in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas in three trailers without ventilation, according to Mexico’s National Immigration Agency. Of them, 349 were minors. In January, 16 Guatemalan migrants seeking to reach the U.S. were shot at and burned to death just south of the U.S. border. Twelve Mexican police officers, including three who received training by the U.S., have been charged in their deaths

Thursday’s accident comes the same week that the Biden administration restarted the “Remain in Mexico” policy requiring asylum seekers to wait out their court hearings in Mexico. The policy, which began under President Donald Trump, seeks to deter migrants from trying to reach the U.S. President Joe Biden ended the policy after taking office, but a federal judge in Texas said the administration hadn’t complied with the proper procedures in doing so and ordered it to be reinstated. 

On Thursday, just hours before the crash, the United Nations reported that it had recorded more than 5,700 deaths of migrants across Central, North America and the Caribbean since 2014, including more than 1,000 in 2021, 650 of them along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tagged:

world politics, worldnews

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