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Migrants tell of nightmare journeys in trucks towards the United States

#Migrants #nightmare #journeys #trucks #United #States

Jose Mario Licona and his family spent 18 hours in a refrigerated truck being smuggled to the Mexico-US border – a journey he luckily survived.

Others were less fortunate, including dozens of migrants from Mexico and Central America who were found dead Monday after being dumped in a muggy semi-truck in San Antonio, Texas. A total of 53 people died in the incident.

Licona knew only too well the dangers of entrusting one’s life to the criminal gangs that transport migrants in often overcrowded and poorly ventilated trucks.

But the smugglers – who were paid $13,000 by his relatives to take him, his wife and three children to Texas – left him no choice, he said.

“When you make a deal, the first thing you (the smugglers) ask is not to be put in a container, but during the trip they do what they want,” Licona told AFP at a shelter in the Mexican border town Ciudad Juarez.

“They often let the containers leave” with people trapped, said the 48-year-old Hondurans.

Licona, his wife and children, ages two, six and eight, traveled in a truck from Mexico City to the northeastern city of Reynosa, south of Hidalgo, Texas.

Around 100 people were traveling in the same vehicle, which was not once checked by the Mexican authorities during the more than 1,000-kilometer journey, Licona said.

From Reynosa, the family crossed the border on foot but were turned back by US authorities.

– “Criminal Enterprises” –

The smuggling networks that run the articulated lorries are becoming more sophisticated, said Dolores Paris, a migrations expert at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

“We are talking about criminal companies,” she told the AFP news agency.

The tractor-trailer involved in the San Antonio tragedy passed through two immigration checkpoints in Texas and had cloned license plates, according to the Mexican government.

Investigators are still trying to figure out where the vehicle began its journey.

It was the second such disaster in the city in just over five years.

In July 2017, 10 migrants were found dead in an overheated truck parked outside a Walmart supermarket.

In 2003, 19 migrants died in similar circumstances in Texas.

Licona, a shopkeeper, left Honduras in May after he was shot in the arm during a robbery.

The caravan ride was so grueling that he still regrets it today, he said.

“It was very cold. I gave my children two pants, three shirts and a quilt. You slept while driving. We brought them drinks but I didn’t want to wake them up. Thank God we’re here,” he said.

The cold made his arm ache even more, but he endured it in hopes of reaching Texas.

After crossing into Mexico, the family turned themselves in to a US border patrol in an unsuccessful attempt to gain asylum.

They are now hoping for another chance to enter the United States on humanitarian grounds.

– ‘Angel saved me’ –

Migrants staying in emergency shelters near the Mexico-US border said the journeys take up to two days, with up to 400 people crammed into a semi-truck like “animals”.

Some strip or pass out in the heat. Others avoid eating or drinking so they don’t have to urinate.

When the containers are cooled, it’s like being in a “freezer,” says one young woman.

Around 6,430 migrants have died or disappeared en route to the United States since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Of those, 850 were the result of vehicle accidents or related to dangerous transport, the United Nations agency says.

In December, 56 Central American migrants bound for the United States were killed and dozens injured when the truck they were traveling in overturned in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

A Honduran mother, who gave her name as Jenny, was aware of the risks and said she refuses to get into a truck in southeastern Mexico with her daughters, ages eight and 14.

Instead, they continued on their journey without the traffickers, despite being billed $7,500 each.

“It was like an angel saved me,” said the 32-year-old, who fled gang violence in her country and is hoping for asylum in the United States on humanitarian grounds.

“Everyone has the right to have a chance,” she said.

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#Migrants #nightmare #journeys #trucks #United #States

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