MEXICO CITY, July 2 (Xinhua) -- The Mexican government on Tuesday began to implement a program for Central American migrants to voluntarily return to their countries.
The Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) announced in a statement that the first group of migrants returning home departed Tuesday morning by bus from Ciudad Juarez in the northern state of Chihuahua.
Of the 69 migrants in that group, 66 chose to return home after asking for asylum in the United States and then being sent back to Mexico to wait for their trial before the immigration courts, according to the INM.
The first group consists of 40 Hondurans, 22 Guatemalans and seven Salvadorans.
The institute said that the program will be extended to the border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali in the northwest, where the United States is also sending asylum seekers in line with its Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP).
The Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the program seeks to ensure the safe return of migrants and it is carried out in coordination with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
"This program aims to meet the needs of migrants who, in a free and autonomous way, seek to return to their countries of origin," the ministry added.
Through the MPP, Washington has returned 16,714 Central Americans who requested asylum, according to figures from the INM.
Ciudad Juarez, a city which hosts the most returnees, has about 7,706 returned migrants.