Haitian migrants stranded in southern Mexico demand faster asylum proceedings

Tapachula, Mexico, Aug 23 (EFE).- Hundreds of Haitian migrants who have been stuck for months in the southeastern Mexican city of Tapachula on Monday called on authorities to expedite their asylum proceedings so they can relocate to other parts of the country.

With signs in hand, men, women and children demonstrated outside the offices of the Comar refugee assistance agency to express their frustration at being retained for so long in that city located about 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Mexico’s border with Guatemala.

Erik Lince, a Haitian migrant, told Efe that Tapachula cannot take in any more foreign asylum seekers because there are no employment opportunities there.

He added that there is a risk of the city becoming a hotspot for coronavirus infections due to the high number of stranded migrants, many of whom are sleeping on the street.

The foreigners also demanded an end to abuses by police forces, alleging that corrupt officers have been extorting and robbing them.

Maria Bolivar, a Haitian woman, said officers are detaining migrants, taking to them to the Siglo XXI migrant detention center and then releasing them days later in the wee hours of the night.

The protesters also said that personnel with the INM immigration agency are taking migrants to the border with Guatemala, where they have to embark on a long trek back to Tapachula to continue their asylum proceedings.

Mexico has dealt with an increased flow of migrants since October 2018, when thousands of mostly Central Americans began arriving via caravan with the ultimate goal of reaching the United States.

After President Joe Biden was inaugurated earlier this year, that flow of people from Central America increased further amid expectations that immigration restrictions imposed by his predecessor, Donald Trump, would be lifted.

The cross-border movement of undocumented migrants is continuing its upward trajectory, with more than 1 million of these people having been detained along the US-Mexico border and thousands left stranded in Mexico this fiscal year (since last October).

Comar said in early August that it received 64,378 applications for asylum in the first seven months of the year.

Though the applicants represent a record 97 different countries, Hondurans, Haitians and Cubans are the largest groups.

In June, Comar said it had managed to resolve just over 13,000 asylum applications year-to-date, granting asylum in 73 percent of those cases.

The process is slow because Comar “does not have sufficient resources to respond to all these applications,” the director of the group Asylum Access Mexico, Alejandra Macias, told Efe on World Refugee Day (June 20), pointing out that the agency is heavily reliant on funding from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

“I believe the increase (in asylum applications) in Mexico is to do with the restrictions that exist in the United States to apply for refugee status,” Macias said then. “There is a much greater possibility in Mexico for a person to be recognized as a refugee.” EFE


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