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Migrant disappearances quadruple in Mexico in 2021, says report

By Lizbeth Diaz
FILE PHOTO: Central American Mothers and other relatives hold up pictures of migrants who disappeared while traveling trying to reach the U.S. border, during a demonstration in Veracruz, Mexico May 6, 2022. Picture taken May 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yahir Ceballos

Reported cases of missing migrants in Mexico jumped nearly fourfold in 2021 from 2020, as the country struggles to stem the flow of undocumented people from Central America to the United States, according to a report released Wednesday.

The number of missing foreigners grew by 292% to 349 from 89 cases, said the report presented by the Jesuits' Missing Migrant Search Program (SJM), a human rights organization.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants traverse Mexico every year hoping to reach the United States, often becoming the victims of kidnappings, murders and other crimes.

"There are places where drug cartels lie in wait for migrants to pull them into their ranks," said Luis Macias, director of SJM in Mexico.

Most of the missing came from countries including Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela.

According to the report 44% of the missing migrants were between 18 and 29 years old, 42% between 30 and 59 years old, and 14% were under the age of 17.

Mexico's National Migration Institute did not immediately respond a request for comment.

Of those people who go missing but are later located, the SJM said 75% were found in an immigration detention center or in temporary housing.

The report stressed there is still significant under-reporting of migrant disappearances in Mexico, worsened by a lack of public information made available by government agencies responsible for finding missing people. 

"Policies aimed at disrupting migration flows have increased cases of detention and of (the migrants) not being able to communicate, and consequently the number of disappearances reported by relatives have increased," said Adrian Estrada, SJM's coordinator for migrant assistance in Mexico City.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Díaz; Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Richard Pullin)

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