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Two Indian nationals activate rescue beacon in desert near Lukeville

Two Indian men activated a rescue beacon north of Lukeville, Ariz., on Wednesday evening, and were taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents, authorities said. 

Agents from the Ajo Border Patrol station responded to the triggering of the rescue signal about 14 miles northwest of the Lukeville Port of Entry, some 110 miles southwest of Tucson. There the agents found two men who "were in good health, and did not request further medical assistance," said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Over the last eight months, the remote desert area west of Lukeville has become one of the major entry points for asylum seekers, including families and children traveling without parents or guardians fleeing poverty and violence from three Central American countries. 

On Tuesday, 393 people entered the U.S. near Lukeville and immediately turned themselves over to Border Patrol agents. 

Agents took the men found Wednesday back to the Ajo Station, and "records checks" showed the two men were Indian nationals in the country without authorization, Daniels said. 

In a response to a question about whether the men sought asylum, a spokesman with Tucson Sector Border Patrol said, "We cannot comment on any immigration claims following their arrest." 

Last fiscal year, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended people from 113 different countries along the southwest border. While the lion's share of apprehensions are from Mexico and three Central American countries, Border Patrol agents have also taken into custody people from India, Bangladesh and China, according to agency statistics. 

Last year, nearly 9,000 people from India were apprehended, including 461 in the Tucson Sector. 

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An image released by the agency from a camera mounted to the rescue beacon shows one of the men waiting by the beacon wearing a bright orange turban matched with an orange and gray jacket. 

The agency has deployed 34 rescue beacons in the Tucson Sector, including beacons in the 330,000-acre Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that surrounds Lukeville, and the adjacent Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The beacons are self-contained units with solar panels and include a 35-high truss that's marked with a "high-visibility" strobe light. At eye-level, the beacon has a panel with a single red button that activates the beacon. 

There are instructions in English, Spanish and Tohono O'odham, and a pictogram of an individual activating the rescue beacon by hitting the button and then waiting for Border Patrol agents to arrive, Daniels said. 

Around 20 beacons are in the Ajo area, and eight of them are either in, or close to Organ Pipe. However, the rescue beacons are portable and "may be relocated" quickly to "address humanitarian needs," he said.  

In fiscal year 2018, rescue beacon were activated 93 times in the Tucson Sector, resulting in 158 rescues. 

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A man, identified only as an Indian national waits near a rescue beacon near Lukeville, Arizona on Wednesday.


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