A company which operates some of Mexico’s railways has suspended 60 of its routes after a surge of migrants hitching rides on freight trains.
Ferromex said services would be halted on the trains travelling towards Mexico’s border with the US, in order to “avoid accidents or loss of life”.
It added that the number of migrants trying to hitch rides on its freight trains was “unprecedented”.
Hundreds of thousands clamber onto the roofs and cling to the sides each year.
Grupo México, which owns Mexico’s biggest rail operator, Ferromex, said in a statement published [in Spanish] on Tuesday that there had been “half a dozen cases of injuries or death in recent days”.
The network of freight trains is referred to by migrants as La Bestia (The Beast) and many risk jumping on board to speed up their 3,000km-journey (1,860 miles) from Mexico’s southern to its northern border.
As the wagons are usually filled with freight, most ride on the train roof or hang from its sides.
If they fall, they risk losing life and limb. The trains are also targeted by gangs who rob, rape and extort migrants.
Ferromex said more than 1,500 people had gathered on top of a train and inside a train depot in Torreón, from where freight services depart for a number of Mexican cities on the US border.
The company said hundreds more had gathered at other key points of the railroad, with more than 1,000 on the roofs of wagons on the route between Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez.
Ferromex said families with children were among those boarding their freight trains.
The statement by Ferromex comes amid warnings by international organisations about the increasing number of children embarking on the land route through Mexico to the US.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, says that the number of children migrating through Latin America and the Caribbean has reached record numbers.
“Gang violence, instability, poverty and climate-related events are, alarmingly, gripping the region and pushing more children from their homes,” Gary Conville, Unicef’s Latin America and Caribbean director, said.
United States Customs and Border Protection said that more than 83,000 children had crossed the US’s southern border in the first seven months of 2023.
At some crossing points, nine out of 10 children are below the age of 11, Unicef figures suggest.