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Abandoned bus with more than 100 Egyptians found in southern Mexico

Authorities say the group showed signs of being victims of human trafficking networks
People moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life or to escape violence, travel in a bus on the outskirts of Mexico City as they continue their trek north, on 10 November 2018.
People moving towards the US in hopes of a better life travel in a bus on outskirts of Mexico City as they continue their trek north, on 10 November 2018 (AFP)

Mexican authorities have found 129 Egyptian nationals abandoned in a bus in the southern state of Veracruz, and said the people had signs that they were victims of human trafficking groups.

Mexico's National Institute of Migration said in a press release on Wednesday that it received a phone tip about the location of a passenger bus along the Las Choapas-Nanchital highway, close to the border with Guatemala.

After reaching the location, authorities rescued 137 people that were abandoned inside the bus. Of the group, 129 were from Egypt while the other eight were from Mauritania. Authorities also identified two minors in the group.

The institute said in its press release that the individuals were wearing bracelets with their own names, and said this was a characteristic of tactics used by traffickers.

The adults were taken to a migration station, while the minors were taken to the Office for the Channeling of Girls, Boys and Adolescents (NNA).

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It is unclear whether the individuals, who were not able to prove they were legally travelling to Mexico, were attempting to migrate to Mexico or ultimately reach the United States.

The United Nations has warned that many people who attempt to migrate to European countries or the US are "abused or die on the way to their destination, and many are abandoned en route without resources".

"In many cases, migrants are mistreated during the smuggling process and the conditions that they are made to endure are severe. When they realize the situation they are in, some migrants try and turn back, but they are inevitably forced to continue with the journey," the report said.

A dangerous journey to US

Egyptians leaving the country to migrate abroad have increased in recent years. The European Union said that in March 2022, the number of Egyptian nationals applying for asylum reached its highest since 2014.

While crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe is a more common route for migration for Egyptians, less is known about the number of people from the Middle East travelling through the Americas to reach the United States.

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The region of South and Central America and Mexico has been a common route for people attempting to migrate to the US, and often involves a difficult and unsafe journey that includes treks through jungles and mountains.

The trek across the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama, a stretch of land connecting the two American continents, is considered one of the most popular and most dangerous migration routes in the world. In 2022, nearly 250,000 made the crossing.

There is not much data regarding how many people from the Middle East are encountered at the US southern border each year. However, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows there has been a rise in the number of Turkish citizens showing up at the southwest border.

In 2022, CBP data showed a spike from less than 2,000 encounters of Turkish citizens in 2021 to 15,445 in 2022, with 13,747 encounters so far in 2023.

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