After starting their trip on Saturday from Tapachula, a city in the southeastern state of Chiapas on the border with Guatemala, and after walking about 40 km, a caravan of migrants took a break on Tuesday in the Mexican municipality of Huixtla, so that its members can heal wounds and hydrate. The caravan heads to Mexico City to denounce the long wait for their asylum applications in the south of the country.
Irma Romero is a migrant from Honduras who travels with her three girls. She decided to go in the caravan because she no longer had any more resources to support her daughters in the border city of Tapachula. The woman told the EFE news agency that, in the caravan, some 4,000 migrants, mostly Central Americans, traveled, including 1,000 children and dozens of pregnant women.
Desperate to find work, fleeing poverty and violence, the migrants left Tapachula this weekend, where they have waited up to a year for responses to their requests for asylum or other visas that allow them to transit through Mexico. They report having been trapped in legal limbo without their claims being processed.
Mario Carbonell, correspondent for France 24, explained from Mexico City that this caravan is different from the previous ones.
“This time, reaching the northern border is not the end,” he said. “The mission (of the migrants) is to go to the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate of the Republic and the Ministry of the Interior to insist that, in Tapachula, they have delayed (their) applications for months.”
Under Mexican law, migrants who apply in Tapachula must remain there until their claims are processed, but many, like Irma Romero, no longer have the financial resources to stay in the city until they get a response.
On Saturday, the forces of the Mexican National Guard tried to stop them, but the contingent managed to move on and was able to continue on their way in the hope of reaching Mexico City, before pausing in the municipality of Huixtla.
Romero requested the solidarity of the inhabitants of Huixtla to provide them with medicine, water and food. Meanwhile, the migrants took advantage of the hospitality of the Catholic Church to be able to feel safe and not be arrested by the police.
“In the south, López Obrador knows very well that there is no work and you cannot have migrants for so many months without giving them some documentation,” the priest of one of the churches in the area, Hayman Vázquez, told the media.
The priest pointed out that the caravans are not the solution, but they give visibility to the problem and serve to sensitize citizens. He also stated that this fifth caravan that follows the four failed ones in September, is going to move towards Mexico City, adding that the migrants are more organized and that the federal security forces will find it difficult to dismantle them.
“We do not want problems with anyone,” Anthony Beltrández, a Cuban who left his country in 2018 for Uruguay and who has been waiting in Tapachula for a month and a half since he arrived in Mexico, told the AP news agency. “We want to do everything in a peaceful way,” he said.
Mexico faces a historic flow of migrants
In recent months, large groups of migrants have tried to leave Tapachula after becoming frustrated by waiting and being unable to find work. Those groups were made up, in large part, by Haitians, who were relatively few within the last group that began their journey this Saturday.
In September, thousands of people from Haiti, fleeing the endemic crisis that the Caribbean island is suffering, arrived at the border between Mexico and the United States, but many were deported to their country.
Tapachula, home to Mexico’s largest migrant detention center, is the main overland entry point to the south of the country. The situation in the city reflects that nation’s struggle to manage the number of migrants who arrived in recent months.
Since the beginning of the year and until September, the Mexican authorities have received more than 90,000 asylum applications, according to official data. Among those requests, approximately 70% are processed in Tapachula.
The Mexican government has been using a strategy of containing migrants to try to keep them in the south and away from the border with the United States. But this strategy of dubious effectiveness was strongly criticized by human rights groups.
On the other hand, these groups affirm that the massive number of applications has overwhelmed an already faulty and resource-poor migration system, especially in the case of the agency responsible for processing asylum applications. In fact, to cope with the enormous volume of applications, the Mexican government has turned the Tapachula Olympic Stadium into a temporary processing center, with waiting lines of up to 7,000 people a day.
Southern Mexico is experiencing an unprecedented migratory wave with a flow of 147,000 people registered from January to August of this year, triple that of 2020.
Further north, on the U.S.-Mexico border, arrest figures last year reached numbers never seen before with more than 1.7 million migrants reported by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
With EFE and AP