More than 400 migrants found in trucks in southern Mexico

COATZACOALCOS, Mexico (AP) – More than 400 migrants who came crammed into two trucks trying to clandestinely cross the country were detected by authorities on a highway in southern Mexico near the area where two small caravans of migrants are visibly moving. One that was in the state of Veracruz on Friday and another that left Tapachula on Thursday, near the border with Guatemala.

The migrants found in the trucks were taken to the offices of the Criminal Investigation Agency in Coatzacoalcos, in southern Veracruz, where the migrants waited huddled in the yard before being handed over to the National Migration Institute, which generally returns them to their countries.

They were “over 400 … I had not had to see so many in a single event,” Tonatiuh Hernández Sarmiento, of the Veracruz Human Rights Commission, told the press after visiting them. “Some are very dirty, full of mud, I imagine that due to the same physical conditions of the containers … in fact, I imagine that due to the heat they were quite wet,” he added.

According to the official, there were minors, pregnant women and people with illnesses.

The arrests of migrants who travel clandestinely paying traffickers have increased in recent weeks – although many others cross the country daily without being detected – while other foreigners who entered Mexico irregularly walk the roads visibly in caravans with the hope of not having to pay traffickers, traveling in a safer way and attracting the attention of the authorities in order to regularize their situation.

The leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada met on Thursday in Washington to discuss, among other topics, how to address this increase in migratory flows and although there were good words, concrete commitments were lacking, experts agree.

The three countries agreed to increase the avenues to be able to migrate legally, for example, with more temporary work visas. They also bet on expanding access to the protection of migrants and on tackling the causes that make them leave their countries, but they lacked figures, concrete investments or clear deadlines to fulfill the promises.

“It was not something substantial, I see it as something stagnant, there is no progress,” said Alejandra Macías, director of Asylum Access Mexico. “Everything has been talked about for a long time but it does not materialize.”

Maureen Meyer, vice president of the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) think tank, said that reaffirming the rights of migrants and asylum seekers is positive “but actions on the ground, particularly in Mexico and in the border between the United States and Mexico, they continue to violate their rights, deny them access to protection and allow crimes and abuses to be committed with impunity ”.

The caravan that is now in Veracruz is the first that has managed to advance so much in the last two years because since 2019 the security forces have contained and dissolved the caravans.

On this occasion, the government chose to offer humanitarian visas to the vulnerable population. Many have accepted but others do not trust and, according to the direct of Asylum Access, distrust is logical because there are “clear contradictions” within the National Immigration Institute that, on the one hand, gives them some documents but in other parts of the country they say they are not worth it and they return to the south.

“If they are given the document for humanitarian reasons (that) allows you to even enter and leave the country,” explains Macías. “But their mobility within Mexico is being restricted.”

That is why Abel Louigens, from Haiti, decided to join the caravan that left Tapachula on Thursday, almost on the border with Guatemala, made up of some 2,000 people who are now advancing through the state of Chiapas.

“They give a role but only for Tapachula, you cannot travel in all parts of Mexico, you cannot take a bus to look for work, but there is no work in Chiapas,” he explained. Louigens assured that he will stay where he finds a job and that he will only enter the United States legally. “I cannot sacrifice myself so that later they send me to my country.”

AP journalist María Verza, in Mexico City, and Raúl Vera in Huixtla, contributed to this article.

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