Refugee trek through Mexico: “Sad what’s happening here”

Status: December 18, 2021 11:26 a.m.

Several refugee treks are currently on their way north through Mexico. US President Biden had promised a more humane immigration policy. But the migrants have not yet felt any of this.

By Anne Demmer, ARD Studio Mexico

They left Tapachula in southern Mexico on October 23rd and set off north on foot. At first there were almost 2,000 migrants. But many gave up because they were too exhausted, and were arrested and deported.

Only 300 made it to Mexico City, many of them children. When she arrived a few days ago, Mexican security forces cracked down on her brutally, says 23-year-old Cesar Lionel Alvarez.

It is really very sad, everything that is happening here. Some of the police officers have no hearts. Some people have lost consciousness, others have been beaten with sticks. They wanted us to go to a very specific hostel. We didn’t agree. They forcibly pushed us back with their protective shields and sprayed tear gas. They didn’t care about the children or the women either. As an adult you can take a few blows, but not the children.

On the run from poverty, crises and corruption

The clashes between the police and the migrants began shortly before Mexico City. The procedure met with sharp criticism from the National Commission for Human Rights, claiming that the security forces violated human rights, failed to protect children – and used disproportionate force.

There are people from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba against whom the police had acted. The people had fled poverty, the political crisis, the corruption in their countries. The 27-year-old Melvin Zuñiga from Honduras has fled the violence of the maras, the criminal gangs.

I had a shop in San Pedro Sula. One day men came and said that from now on I should pay a certain amount of money, but that I don’t have any money. I had to flee. It was of course not a planned trip, so everything was a little complicated and of course I had to hide from the maras on the way.

Melvin Zuñiga is out with his wife. They had to leave everything behind overnight. Now they are trying to get legal residence status: They want to apply for asylum in Mexico. Claudia Masferrer, migration expert at the Colegio de Colmex, observes an increase in asylum applications in Mexico. The problem with that:

The bureaucracy is very sluggish. The authorities need a larger budget for precisely this situation, in order to integrate precisely these people who are seeking asylum here. It would be simple steps that would help improve it. For example, the change in the law that prohibits migrants from moving around the country. That would also prevent a high concentration in cities like Tapachula.

The border town of Tapachula is like a refugee camp

Tapachula alone, a border town to Guatemala, is bursting at the seams. It resembles a refugee camp. Amnesty International had repeatedly criticized the overcrowding, the delays in the procedures for the recognition of refugee status and humanitarian visas, harassment and abuse by local and federal authorities.

The Mexican government is strengthening the southern border with additional security forces so that the people cannot even continue their way north. It is exactly the same in the north on the border with the USA, explains Masferrer. The policies of both countries – that of the USA and Mexico – put migrants at risk.

We remember, only recently we had the Camargo massacre, in which 19 migrants were burned in vehicles, and now most recently this accident in which more than 50 people were killed. This shows that this policy of foreclosure, especially the persecution by the security forces – all of this contributes to the migrants looking for more dangerous routes, they have to take even more money into their hands and in the end the smugglers benefit from it while the migrants lose their lives put at risk.

The goal: the USA

Only a few days ago a truck had an accident in the state of Chiapas, and more than 50 migrants who were crammed into the semi-trailer have died in the accident.

How long the caravan will stay in Mexico City is unclear. Most of the people’s destination – the USA – has moved a little further afield for the time being. Only recently, by order of a judge, a Trump-era measure came into effect again: asylum seekers, even if they have already made it illegally to the USA, have to wait in overcrowded camps in Mexico until the US authorities have decided on their application.

Migration Day Mexico / USA: Stay in Mexico

Anne Demmer, ARD Mexico, 18.12.2021 · 10:17 p.m.

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