The Associated Press November 22, 2010, 11:43AM ET

Mexico: migrants should form convoys for safety

The Mexican government is telling migrants driving home for the holidays that they should form convoys for their own safety while traveling through Mexico.

The Interior Department said the government could even provide escorts for such convoys to get them through dangerous areas. It said the Mexican army would assist in the program to help migrants return safely from the United States.

Mexico is experiencing unprecedented levels of drug cartel violence in some border areas, making it dangerous to travel on some highways, particularly those in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas and some leading to the northern city of Monterrey.

In the past, those routes have been heavily used by migrants returning to their hometowns. Migrants have also been targeted in the past by common criminals for robberies or extortion because they often bring new vehicles, cash or appliances with them.

The Interior Department said in a statement Sunday that migrants should also try to travel only by daylight, and should try to coordinate with the Paisano Program, which is a multi-agency effort to help returning migrants.

"The main recommendation for travelers is that drive during the day and in groups, and with that aim in mind they should contact Paisano Program offices to organize caravans, so that they can be escorted or monitored," according to the statement.

An estimated 12 million Mexicans live in the United States, and the money they send home is Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income after oil exports.

The U.S. State Department has urged U.S. citizens to avoid traveling on the highway between the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, south of the Texas border, due to drug gang violence. The department also noted that "criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana."

The situation has become so bad that the State Department has prohibited its employees from traveling by vehicle across the U.S.-Mexico border.


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