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Migrant encounters down 70% since end of Title 42, US official says

Migrants stand near the Rio Bravo river after crossing the border, to request asylum in the United States, as seen from Ciudad Juarez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped 70% since COVID-era border restrictions ended last week, U.S. Homeland Security official Blas Nunez-Neto said on Friday.

U.S. officials on Sunday had said the number had fallen by half, following the May 11 expiration of a health order called Title 42 that allowed U.S. authorities to quickly send migrants back to Mexico without the chance to request asylum.

Speaking in a call with reporters, Nunez-Neto said the number had continued to tick down after an average 4,000 encounters a day as of May 12.

"In the last 48 hours there were 3,000 encounters a day on the border, this is a more than 70% reduction," he said.

Nunez-Neto also said about 11,000 people were removed from the U.S. in the last week and sent to more than 30 countries, including more than 1,100 people from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba returned to Mexico.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Valentine Hilaire, Editing by Daina Beth Solomon)