At least one man died when a small boat filled with migrants from the Central African nation of Cameroon capsized Friday off the Pacific coast of southern Mexico, authorities said.
Two passengers were still missing late in the day, said prosecutors in Chiapas state.
The single-engine boat most likely originated in Mexico or nearby Guatemala with the aim of smuggling the migrants up the coast of Mexico so they could avoid traveling by land through Chiapas.
Thousands of African migrants trying to get to the United States have been stranded in southern Mexico as authorities there — under pressure from the Trump administration — have refused to issue them transit visas to continue north. Many plan to seek political asylum or other forms of humanitarian protection in the United States.
Mexican and U.S. authorities have reported detaining record numbers of undocumented African nationals this year.
Activists were quick to assign blame for the tragedy.
“What happened today with the African migrants is completely the fault of the Mexican government that has accepted the caprices and orders of President Trump,” said Irineo Mujica, a member of the Pueblos Sin Fronteras group that has assisted migrants traveling through Mexico.
Mexican officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Eight other Cameroonian nationals — seven men and one woman — survived and were treated in an area hospital and released.
Mexican authorities were questioning them to determine where the boat had originated, how long it had been at sea and other details.
The attorney general’s office in Chiapas state vowed to “clarify the matter” and identify those responsible.
The boat capsized about 7 a.m. near the fishing town of Puerto Arista, part of the municipality of Tonala, police said.
The dead man was identified as Emanuel Cheo Ngu, 39. Photos circulated on the internet of his fully clothed body in the brush along a beach.
Immigration authorities in Costa Rica had issued him a transit visa on Sept. 6 that gave him 25 days to pass through that Central American nation, according to a document made public in Mexico.
For years, smugglers have transported migrants in boats along the Pacific coast to points north of Chiapas, which has a heavy presence of police, soldiers and immigration agents tasked with deterring illicit migration.
Immigration checkpoints — bolstered by recently deployed Mexican National Guard forces — line the major northbound routes in Chiapas state.
Stranded African migrants have staged angry demonstrations in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula and have camped in protest outside Mexico’s federal immigration lockup there. Most had flown to Ecuador or other places in South America and made their way overland to Mexico.
Cameroonians represent the largest group among the African migrants arriving in Mexico. Many are part of that country’s English-speaking minority and say they face repression from a government dominated by the French-speaking majority.
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