By Juan Manuel Blanco
Mexico City, Apr 1 (EFE).- Hundreds of migrants set off on foot from the southeastern Mexican border city of Tapachula on Friday with the goal of reaching this capital and regularizing their status, but they clashed with federal authorities soon after embarking on their trek.
That new contingent of men, women and children, dubbed the “Migrant Way of the Cross” since the date of their departure was just days before the start of Easter Week, started off at around 7 am from that city in Chiapas state near the Guatemalan border, where thousands of migrants have been stranded for weeks or even months.
TIRED OF WAITING
Carlos Riquelme, a Salvadoran man, told Efe he is fed up with trying to obtain a residency permit through the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) or the National Institute of Migration (INM).
He said he has spent three years in Tapachula – denounced by migrant activists as a “city-prison” – and that when Comar finally ruled on his asylum request the response was negative.
The Central American said he had joined an earlier migrant caravan but was detained by immigration authorities.
“They didn’t even deport me back to my country. They left me in Mexico,” Riquelme said, adding that he wants to reach a region of Mexico with more job opportunities but that this will be his final attempt.
Venezuela’s Ivel Antonio Martinez said for his part that the economic situation in Tapachula is challenging.
He added that the migrants would welcome the protection of federal authorities along the route. “We don’t want violence or confrontation. We want peace and free passage.”
CLASHES WITH AUTHORITIES
On the first stretch of their planned 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) journey, the migrants walked from Tapachula to the village of Viva Mexico some 8 kilometers (5 miles) away.
The members of the migrant caravan clashed with INM and National Guard personnel at the first checkpoint they came upon in Viva Mexico, but they managed to break through the security barricade set up by those federal authorities.
Some 150 National Guard members were present during that initial confrontation.
The INM’s delegate in Chiapas, Paola Lopez Rodas, urged migrants to return and regularize their status but her petition was ignored.
Many of the migrants were knocked to the ground during the clash, some of them women and children, but no arrests were made and they continued to make their way along Chiapas’s coastal highway.
Some 7 km further along, the migrants encountered a veritable wall of federal agents and some even hurled rocks in their direction.
Several migrants were arrested at that juncture, although the caravan continued on with a reduced contingent, Efe observed.
The region is experiencing a record flow of migrants trying to make their way to the US, whose Customs and Border Protection agency intercepted a record 1.7 million undocumented migrants trying to enter the country illegally in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2021.