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Mexico Warns Migrants About Dangers of Cold

FILE - Migrants wait to receive food donated by the Community Center for Migrant Assistance in the municipality of Caborca in Sonora state, Mexico, Jan. 13, 2017.

As winter cold sweeps over parts of Mexico, authorities there are issuing travel warnings and, they say, stepping up aid for migrants traversing dangerous routes.

With frost and snowfall reported in the country's northern and northeastern regions, the National Institute of Migration took to Twitter on Tuesday to warn travelers to take "extreme precautions to prevent respiratory diseases, hypothermia, injuries and falls when traveling along little-trafficked routes. Do not risk your life!"

The institute said that members of its Beta Groups for the Protection of Migrants, a humanitarian service, were being especially vigilant in the country's north.

"We are a transit country," Humberto Roque Villanueva, Mexico's undersecretary of population, migration and religious affairs, acknowledged at a December meeting with federal officials. "It is the most painful part. We're reminded every time we have to stop" a box truck crowded with migrants and "at risk of losing their lives."

The Beta Groups' members – usually clad in bright orange shirts or jackets and traveling in orange trucks or on orange all-terrain vehicles – scour desolate stretches of the country. When they find migrants, they dispense food, water, clothing, blankets and medicines. If necessary, the Beta Groups take migrants to Red Cross shelters or health centers to provide medical care.

Last year, the Beta Groups provided services to 134,252 migrants, the institute said. Its mandate is for humanitarian purposes, not law enforcement.

The International Committee of the Red Cross told VOA, in an email, that it supports "several mobile clinics entirely run by Red Cross volunteers along the migration route. They have doctors, free phone call services for migrants, food and basic medical assistance."

Separately, Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention said at least 400 shelters were open in the northern state of Chihuahua, the Spanish news agency EFE reported Tuesday.

This article originated in VOA's Spanish Service.