The migrants who wanted to leave Tapachula, Chiapas early in the morning had been held up in this city just north of Guatemala for weeks or months, awaiting residency or transit papers from Mexican authorities. They are are originally from Central America, Africa and the Caribbean.
It has now become difficult to obtain permission to pass through Mexico since Mexico has practically stopped issuing visas for migrants to pass through the country.
Hundreds of African migrants, in particular, have been stuck for months in Tapachula, where they say immigration authorities have refused them either residency or transit papers, according to a report from The Associated Press. Almost all of them want to seek asylum in the United States, rather than stay in Mexico.
Those stranded in Tapachula face the option of turning back across Mexico’s southern border, or continuing north clandestinely if they do not apply for asylum in Mexico.
Most want to go to the US and have said that they do not like Mexico because of “language and cultural differences”.
On Friday, an African migrant from Cameroon was found dead after a fishing boat he was in capsized off the Pacific Coast northwest of Guatemala. Two more migrants were missing, while another seven migrants were brought to a hospital.
Tens of thousands of Africans from Cameroon are fleeing an armed conflict between the country’s English-speaking population and its Francophone majority-government.
While Mexico frequently repatriates, by plane, migrants from countries such as Cuba and Honduras, deportations for migrants from Africa have not happened, because of the lack infrastructure to handle such repatriations.
An Associated Press photographer documented the hundreds of men, women and children running to escape the security forces encircling them in Huixtla, Chiapas, to stop them from continuing north.
They were rounded up and escorted to waiting transport, but officials refused to say where they were taking the migrants. “This caravan no longer exists,” migrant rights advocate Irineo Mujica confirmed.
Maureen Meyer, director for Mexico and migrant rights at the Washington Office on Latin America, said that enforcement around Tapachula has made it very difficult for migrants to head north undetected.