(OAXACA CITY, OAXACA)
A police operation seized 82 illegal migrants packed into the back of a fake Red Cross truck in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca on Thursday (July 07) as the country battles to stem the tide of migrants heading north in search of a better life.
The fake "Red Cross" trailer was intercepted on a highway near the tiny San Pablo Etla municipality, a mere 15 km (9 miles) from the state capital Oaxaca City.
The detained illegal migrants are currently undergoing questioning by immigration authorities and medical check ups by real Red Cross paramedics pending their eventual deportation.
It is believed the largely Central American migrants boarded the "Red Cross" trailer at night and had been traveling in rough conditions for 10 hours before they were intercepted by the Federal Police.
"On the truck they did not tell us anything other than we were going to Puebla. The truth is I don't know how much was paid (to migrant smugglers) as my Dad finalised the arrangements with the man that had brought us over but he did not come with us," said detained migrant Daniel Estuardo.
Migrant smuggling is a lucrative business in the region with Central Americans paying as much as $10,000 each to smugglers who promise to get them into the United States. Among the group of detainees were two from Asia.
"There are nine women from Guatemala, one Tibetan woman, a Nepalese man, five men from El Salvador and 66 men from Guatemala, making 82 people in total," said Federal Police Officer Edwin Cortez.
With the use of the Red Cross emblem strictly protected under Geneva convention, officials from the NGO expressed concern for the potential ramifications for the group's operations in the region.
The driver of the truck has been detained by police for questioning and is facing charges of people smuggling. However, he insists he was unaware of the trailers contents and was merely instructed to drive to Puebla, 113km (70 miles) east of Mexico City.
Countless Latin American migrants journey some 3,000 km (1,900 miles) through Mexico hoping for a better life in the United States, some clinging to the top of cargo trains or hiding in secret compartments built into tractor trailers.