New Delhi: More than 300 Indians, including a woman, who were deported by Mexican immigration authorities for illegally entering the country to sneak into the United States, landed here on Friday morning as their dream of a better life and jobs abroad shattered.
In one of the biggest transatlantic deportations, a total of 311 Indians were sent back to India on a chartered flight and were accompanied by 74 Mexican officials, officials here said.
With experiences of walking through jungles and spending lakhs of rupees to achieve their dreams only to be ignominiously caught and sent back, they landed back home after a journey lasting more than 36 hours.
The flight itself was 11 hours, first from Mexico to Spain, and then on to Delhi. The journey for the majority of the deportees started from Ecuador and ended in Mexico via Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
"We landed around 5 am and the formalities took several hours. We could exit the airport only around 1 pm," Jashanpreet Singh, one of the deportees, said. Most of those deported are from Punjab and Haryana.
According to a press release issued by Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM) on Wednesday, the Indian nationals, who did not have a condition of regular stay in the country, were deported from the Toluca City International Airport on a Boeing 747 aircraft to New Delhi.
The deportees, accompanied by Federal Migration agents as well as members of the National Guard, were gathered in the Acayucan Migration Station in Veracruz to carry out their identification and subsequent transfer, the statement said. They were presented to immigration authorities in the states of Oaxaca, Baja California, Veracruz, Chiapas, Sonora, Mexico City, Durango and Tabasco.
Among those who returned home is 19-year-old Mandeep Singh who had left Patiala in June, just two months after failing to clear the Army entrance test.
Mandeep, who passed school and left home with the US dream in his heart, said he travelled through seven countries, with the first stop being Ecuador before landing in Mexico. He claimed he paid Rs 20 lakh to the agent in his state.
Recalling his ordeal, Mandeep said he left India alone on May 9 and reached Ecuador.
"From there I reached Colombia and later Panama. We spent seven days in Panama going through dense forests and other areas. In Nicaragua, we walked three hours through a forest which was full of thorns. After walking through the forest, police caught us and deported us to Honduras in a bus," he added.
Mandeep said he saw several corpses, believed to be of people who wanted to migrate just like him, while crossing the Panama jungles. He further explained that on September 12 they reached Mexico and were there for almost 34 days before being deported to India.
"The journey from Ecuador till Mexico was not that hard, but when we reached Mexico, the whole scenario changed. The life outside the camps was easier than inside," he said.
"We were just 800 km away from the US before the Mexican authorities hauled and deported us. The journey was a horrifying one and I will not go back ever," Mandeep said.
Sahil Malik, 22, from Haryana said he had left Delhi on June 5 for Ecuador, adding he reached Mexico using different modes of transport and often crossed the borders in buses.
Kamaljit Kaur, 34, from Jalandhar, the only woman to be deported, said she spent Rs 53 lakh to reach the US — including for herself, her husband and son. Sombir Saini also complained of bad living conditions in Tapachula refugee camp in Mexico.
Thirty-year-old Surender said the journey was not that difficult but living in the refugee camps was.
"There were around 6,000 to 7,000 people in the camp from different countries. The conditions in the camp were pathetic. The water supply was only for an hour in a day and there were no adequate medical facilities. They were giving the same medicine to every patient, no matter what the disease," he said.
Mandeep said the camp used to serve very less quantity of vegetarian food and mostly served beef.
"Later on September 25, we protested for two days, after which they started giving us rice with kidney beans, but in very less quantity," he said.
US President Donald Trump in June had threatened tariffs on all Mexican imports if the country did not put a check on people entering America through Mexico's borders. Mexico had agreed to boost security on the border and expand its policy of taking back migrants.