Fear, violence hound migrants during trek through Mexico to US

By Guadalupe Peñuelas

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Oct 22 (EFE).- Migrants stranded in this northern border city say violence, fear and impunity are constant realities for them during their time in Mexico.

“We went through hell with the threats and violence. When we were coming here, the coyote (people trafficker) mistreated us and beat us on the road. Police took our money and treated us badly and said if I didn’t keep my moth shut they’d kill me. But here I am with my one-year-old girl,” 20-year-old Guatemalan Gladys Xol told Efe on Friday in Ciudad Juarez.

Xol is one of tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in Mexico’s northern border region in recent months with the goal of reaching the United States.

The journey has been a perilous one for decades and remains so due to the presence of organized crime gangs and corrupt authorities.

Honduran Tito Angel Castillo and his travel companions, for example, were robbed of all their possessions one night by an armed gang.

Others go missing, including a group of 13 people from southern Mexico who disappeared on Sept. 25 in Coyame del Sotol, a municipality in the northern state of Chihuahua.

Local authorities learned about the incident from a minor who managed to escape, and a joint investigation is now underway involving US officials and the state Attorney General’s Office.

One of the most chilling incidents occurred in January in Camargo, Tamaulipas state, where the charred bodies of 19 mostly Guatemalan migrants were discovered.

Yet even after migrants make their way to Ciudad Juarez, one of northern Mexico’s most populated and industrialized cities, crime looms as a constant threat.

The Switzerland-based International Organization for Migration has found that migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador are most frequently targeted and mainly are victims of robberies, kidnappings and extortion.

Impunity typically reigns in these cases, in part because migrants find themselves in an unfamiliar environment and are mistrustful of institutions, the IOM’s communication coordinator for Mexico, Alberto Cabezas, told Efe.

“When their human rights are violated, they are unsure how effective the assistance they seek will be. But every government has the obligation to protect their rights,” he said.

Javier Calvillo, a priest and director of the Casa del Migrante (Migrant’s House) shelter in Ciudad Juarez, told Efe that expulsions from the US via Title 42 – a coronavirus policy that allows the immediate deportation of undocumented migrants – are another factor that puts these people at risk.

One individual staying at that shelter is Josefa del Toro, a native of the western Mexican state of Michoacan.

“As a migrant you have the hope they’re going to help you, and it’s not like that. You suffer a lot. You start out with hope and sometimes the people smugglers aren’t responsible and leave (migrants) stranded,” she told Efe.

Although migrants have long suffered abuse during their northbound journey, the unprecedented migrant wave of 2021 has led to heightened concern for the fate of these men, women and children.

A total of 147,000 undocumented migrants were detected in Mexico between January and August, triple the number seen during those same months of 2020, while a record 212,000 migrants were detained in July alone by the US’s Customs and Border Protection, a federal law-enforcement agency. EFE


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