Tijuana/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Nov 29 (EFE).- Migrants and civil society organizations are on alert following a spate of threats, extortion attempts and attacks in recent months by organized crime groups on shelters along the US-Mexico border.
On Tuesday, it was announced that the Migrant Embassy shelter, located in Tijuana’s beach area, about 50 meters from the border wall that goes into the sea, had to close due to these threats.
Hugo Castro, founder of the S.O.S. Migrant Coalition, to which the shelter belongs, told the media that members of criminal groups have been troubling migrants and coordinators for at least four months.
“The shelter has fallen prey to threats, extortion attempts. Criminals who present themselves as those in control of the area even entered at night, and demanded $200 from each of the migrants as a fee for letting them try to cross the border,” he said.
The activist said that the criminals “perhaps assume that all migrants, at some point, are going to cross the wall through that area,” which is controlled by people traffickers in collusion with organized crime.
The worrying thing, he added, is all this transpires in a tourist area, where dozens of people come daily.
He urged the authorities to respond to requests for help from migrant homes and shelters and said that it was a very serious matter that “these spaces, which should be considered sanctuaries for the families that migrate, are gradually being taken away from us.”
Shelters such as Agape World Mission, located in an at-risk area, as well as Migrant Space, located one kilometer from the border port of San Ysidro, have also reported some form of extortion and attempted aggression by organized crime members.
An attempted kidnapping was also registered at a migrant shelter on the bank of the Rio Bravo river in Chihuahua state.
Recently, hundreds of undocumented migrants, mostly of Venezuelan origin, living for weeks in tents along the bank of Rio Grande in an area known as “little Venezuela”, were evicted by Mexican authorities and are now scattered across the Mexican city of Juárez.
Rosalío Sosa, a member of the Tierra de Oro network of migrant shelters, told EFE that “they wanted to commit a kidnapping, some had their belongings stolen and thank god it did not happen to the elderly. (…) We want to demand that the authorities step up vigilance, it is not fair that we do humanitarian work and they still steal from migrants.” EFE