At least 15 young boys from Punjab have gone missing while trying to enter the United States of America through the Mexico and Bahamas border, a community leader said Monday.
Six went missing while crossing the Bahamas islands-US border while nine went missing trying to cross the Mexico-US border, Executive Director of North American Punjabi Association (NAPA), Satnam Singh Chahal, said.
The families of the missing boys told the organisation that the group, comprising 56 people, was intercepted by the Mexican Army when they were just an hour's distance away from the US border.
Six detained Punjabi boys were later released and they reached US. However, 11 were taken away and they still remain untraceable, Mr Chahal said in a statement.
The boys had called their families in Punjab after landing in Nicaragua and informed them that they will travel from Guatemala to Mexico by road, Mr Chahal said. They were, however, supposed to land in Mexico (as assured by the agents). The boys also spoke with their families upon their arrival in Mexico but all communications stopped thereafter, he said.
Satnam Singh Chahal claimed that the families had paid Rs 19.5 lakh each to a Delhi-based agent in order to send their children to the US. Besides this, the families have also collectively paid another Rs 45 lakh to various "swindler agents" so that the boys are can call home while on their way to the US.
However, the families never heard from them once they reached Mexico.
The agent had taken the entire amount from them and promised to return it at the US detention centres in Texas and later in Florida, Mr Chahal said.
Another group of six Punjabi boys went missing from the Bahamas Island which is an independent country in northwest Carribean. It is located 80km southeast from the Florida coast.
These boys had called their families in Punjab from a hotel in the Bahamas and told them about travelling to the US via Florida. All communications stopped since.
"The families are now running from pillar to post trying to know about the fate of their loved ones," Mr Chahal said.
"It is very unfortunate that hundreds of young Indians, mainly from Punjab and Gujarat, try to cross the US-Mexico border everyday where immigration laws at Texas near the Mexican border are the most stringent and a majority of the them are caught by the US immigration officials," he said.
Satnam Singh Chahal urged the Indian and the Punjab governments to locate the missing boys by getting in touch with the Mexican and US authorities and find out whether the boys are dead or alive.
He also appealed to the youth to not enter the US through illegal means.