By John Manuel White
Tapachula, Mexico, Mar 2 (EFE).- For many years, the Mexican municipality of Tapachula has been deemed as an open prison by thousands of Central American migrants, who cross into Mexico from adjacent Guatemala but fail to gain their status legalized for a safe route to the United States border.
Ricardo Escobar from Nicaragua arrived from Guatemala to Tapachula weeks ago and is one of the hundreds who are stranded in the city that demands regulatory documents to allow them to move freely through Mexico.
After being detained by immigration agents, Escobar spent several days at the government-run Siglo XXI migration station, an infamous place that gained a controversial reputation since the beginning of the 2018 Central American migrant caravans’ crisis, for being overcrowded and inhumane.
Lawyer Jose Luis Perez Jimenez explains to Efe that Tapachula city has become a “mega-prison” for thousands of stranded migrants amid the slow actions to finish the migratory paperwork by the National Institute of Migration (INM) and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR).
Meanwhile, the Mexican government has deployed thousands of troops on its borders in a bid to contain the migration waves that have overwhelmed the region for years.
Activists and international organizations such as the United Nations have criticized the use of force to stop a number of migrant caravans that attempted to leave Tapachula during the last three months of 2021.
“The migration issue is structural and cannot be solved by sending the army or the police to contain it. As for Tapachula, the city has become a great funnel for North America,” Jimenez says.
Thousands of Hondurans are also stranded in Tapachula in an attempt to finalize their documents to be able to reach the north and enter the US.
“I’ve been sleeping in the park for a month. We have erected some tents, yet others still sleep on the sidewalks. My son is miserable and requires more attention, we only ask for help with the visa process,” said a Honduran woman, in her 40s, who lives with other migrants in a makeshift outdoor camp.
Irineo Mujica, director of the Pueblos Unidos Migrantes (PUM) organization, tells Efe that forcing migrants to stay in Tapachula has transformed the city into a “prison with jailers who persecute people.”
Since the beginning of 2022, only one caravan with nearly 300 people managed to attempt to leave Tapachula, however, it was dismantled just a few kilometers into the trip north.
This last attempt adds to other failed migrant caravans in 2021, including the tragic death of 56 people who traveled in an overcrowded truck along a highway in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
With migrants facing continuous failure in their advance towards the north, precarious living conditions and frustration have reached the boiling point in Tapachula.
In recent weeks, migrants of different nationalities staged a series of protests to demand the Mexican immigration authorities to speed up the paperwork.
Haitians and Africans who rallied last week ended up clashing with Mexican security forces guarding the INM headquarters in the city.
The region is witnessing a record flow of migrants heading to the United States, where the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said that more than 1.7 million undocumented migrants have been detected on the border with Mexico in the year ending September 30, 2021.
Mexico deported more than 114,000 foreigners in 2021, according to data released by the Central American country’s interior ministry, while COMAR received a record of 131,448 refugee applications in 2021. EFE