Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Scores of Mexicans die trying to cross US border: report

AFP , MEXICO CITY

More than 300 people died this year trying to illegally cross Mexico's northern border into the US, Mexico's government ombudsman Jose Luis Soberanes announced Wednesday, citing data from non-governmental organizations.

The various non-governmental groups that gave the data said the 2004 death toll is the highest ever, and that it is likely to actually higher because it does not include bodies of people that could not be identified.

The figures are higher than the government's own figures of 284 dead.

Officials estimate that some each year more than 300,000 Mexicans try to illegally cross the border into the US.

Soberanes, who also heads Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights, visited the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez and heard from Mexican and Central American would-be migrants who complained about abuses from US and Mexican authorities.

The biggest complaint is theft, being held incommunicado without charges, and false charges with the intent of extortion, Soberanes said.

Soberanes found that in Baja California, on the western border with California, non-Mexican migrants are held for up to two weeks until groups can be formed to send to their country of origin.

Separately in Tegucigalpa, the foreign ministry announced that 151 Hondurans died and 126 were wounded seeking to illegally enter the US.

Another 76 Hondurans had legs, feet or hands amputated, mostly by trains on their way to the border.

The would-be Honduran migrants to the US died "in different circumstances," said Francisco Martinez, a ministry official.

"Some were murdered, others died in accidents, and others died of thirst in remote areas or in the desert" in the southwestern US, he said.

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