Social Issues

Mexico’s migrant shelters struggle with influx of Haitians

Mexico City, Oct 11 (EFE).- Migrant shelters in this capital are seeking help from authorities to cope with the large numbers of Haitians streaming into the country as the chronic migration crisis along the border between Mexico and the United States grows more acute.

“It makes me very sad that the city government has not been sensitive in the face of this avalanche of Haitian people,” Gabriela Hernandez, director of the Casa Tochan shelter, told Efe.

Despite the cramped quarters at the shelter on the west side of Mexico City, the Tochan staff manage to provide dozens of Haitians with lodging, sustenance and even Spanish language classes.

Like the other shelters across Mexico, Casa Tochan has traditionally served migrants from Central America, but more than 30 of the 49 current residents are Haitian.

A month ago, thousands of undocumented migrants, most of them from Haiti, occupied a makeshift camp under the bridge linking Del Rio, Texas, with Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.

US authorities dispersed the camp and deported most of the migrants, loading some onto airplanes for repatriation to Haiti.

But several thousand of the Haitians in Del Rio chose to head south rather than be sent back to Haiti, hoping to secure refuge – even if only temporary – in Mexico.

Casa Tochan, Cafemin, Casa Fuentes and other shelters in the capital are straining to accommodate Haitians who need a place to stay while waiting for the Mexican Refugee Assistance Commission (Comar) to rule on their applications for residence permits.

“They have to wait on the process and whether it accelerates or not depends on the government,” Hernandez said.

Mexico has also deported thousands of migrants and while the INM immigration agency says that many of those cases are voluntary repatriations, the dissemination last week of images showing a Haitian trying to jump off the stairway while boarding a flight for Port-au-Prince sparked an uproar.

“As a Mexican, that outrages and embarrasses me,” Hernandez said with tears in her eyes. “To the extent that we can we will organize the work of support to attend to these people who are already suffering a repudiation and an entirely difficult situation from countries such as Brazil or Chile.”

The vast majority of the adult Haitians trying to reach the US via Mexico are people who fled Haiti for South America after the January 2010 earthquake that left some 300,000 dead in the hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Many of those migrants encountered prejudice and resentment and when the Covid-19 pandemic plunged the region’s economy into recession, Haitians decided to depart.

As they wait for Comar to work through a substantial backlog of asylum requests, Haitians are weighing whether to continue trying to enter the US or remain in Mexico.

Andy, 26, arrived in Mexico City on Aug. 28 with his two siblings, ages 16 and 23, after an arduous journey from South America that involved flights, bus rides, hikes through dense jungles and swimming across rivers.

Acknowledging the sadness he feels when he thinks about the difficulties he and his compatriots face, Andy told Efe that while he is very grateful for Casa Tochan, listening to the accounts of other Haitians has left him discouraged about the prospects of finding a job. EFE ia/dr

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