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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 08:47 GMT
Mexican migrants to get US maps
Border fence in Arizona
Proposals to build a fence along the border have cooled ties
A Mexican government agency is to issue some 70,000 maps marking main roads and water tanks for people wanting to cross illegally into the US.

The National Human Rights Commission says the maps will be aimed at cutting the death toll among migrants.

US advocates of tougher border controls have criticised the move, saying it will encourage illegal immigration.

Relations between the US and Mexico have cooled recently over US plans to build a fence on parts of the border.

The map plan is backed by Humane Borders, a US-based organisation which operates about 70 emergency water stations near the 3,200-km (2,000-mile) border.

'Not helpful

Launching the project in Mexico City, officials from Mexico's Human Rights Commission (HRC) flatly denied they were trying to encourage greater migration.

"The only thing we are trying to do is warn them of the risks they face and where to get water, so they don't die," said Mauricio Farah of the HRC.

But a spokesman for the US homeland security department said maps would not improve safety for those trying to cross the border.

"It is not helpful for anyone, no matter how well intended they might be, to produce road maps that lead aliens into the desolate and dangerous areas along the border, and potentially invite criminal activity, human exploitation and personal risk," said Russ Knocke.

Each year thousands of Mexicans breach the frontier and attempt to cross the parched Sonoran Desert.

Some 500 died last year while making the journey, the HRC said.

Last year the Mexican government issued comic-book style pamphlets warning of the dangers of illegal migration, while also giving advice on how to stay safe.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the border outpost where the maps are being handed out



SEE ALSO:
Two tunnels found under US border
12 Jan 06 |  Americas
US border fence plan 'shameful'
19 Dec 05 |  Americas
US migrant bill heads for Senate
17 Dec 05 |  Americas
Bush seeks immigration overhaul
29 Nov 05 |  Americas
US vows to stop illegal migrants
03 Nov 05 |  Americas
The New American Dilemma
08 Aug 05 |  Magazine
US and Mexico ease border tension
30 Jan 05 |  Americas


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