At least 100 members of the migrant caravan travelling through Mexico in an attempt to reach the United States have been kidnapped by the Zetas cartel, according to human rights officials in the country.
Fleeing gang violence and threats back home in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, thousands of the migrants travelling en masse reached Mexico City on Monday and Tuesday.
But reports have emerged that a number of members, including children, have gone missing from the group. They are suspected of having fallen prey to criminal gangs, who abduct migrants in order to extort their family members.
Human rights activists and officials in the southern states of Oaxaca and Veracruz, across which the massive group of Central American migrants have trekked over the last few weeks, say that at least 100 were kidnapped in the state of Puebla and allegedly handed over to the Zetas gang.
Arturo Peimbert, the human rights ombudsman in Oaxaca, told local media that the migrants were offered rides by fruit trucks, which they took despite warnings not to, and after getting onto the trucks found themselves locked in.
“The testimonies I have heard [of those who managed to escape] was that many of those migrants were handed over to organised crime near the Federal Police base in Puebla," Mr Peimbert related.
Numbering more than 4,000 now, the Central Americans have been trekking steadily from their home countries in hot, unsanitary conditions in an attempt to reach Mexico’s shared border with the United States and ask for asylum.
In Mexico City, they have been given shelter and other humanitarian help by the city government.
For years, organised crime has preyed on migrants passing through Mexico, from taxing them to use established routes to kidnapping them and imprisoning them in safehouses.
They then ring their relatives either at home or those already living in the US to demand payment in return for their release.
The size of the group of migrants currently passing through Mexico has brought renewed attention and interest to the plight of those fleeing violence and gangs back home.
Donald Trump, the US president, has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric as the migrant groups approaches the US border.
This week, he told the migrants to “turn back now, because you’re not getting in,” and has pledged to send some 15,000 extra troops to the border to protect Americans.
Click Here: liverpool mens jersey