On October 13th, 2019, elements of the National Migration Institute (INM in its Spanish acronym) as well as the Chiapas State Police and the National Guard launched an operation to stop a caravan of migrants, which started early in the evening.
Around five o’clock in the morning between 1,500 and 3,000 Central American, Caribbean and African migrants, including young people and children, left the “Miguel Hidalgo” central park of Tapachula, Chiapas, heading to Tijuana. They intended to make a stop in Mexico City and organize a meeting with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to ask for his help and accelerate their migration processes.
To date, the National Institute of Migration and the Mexican Commission for Assistance to Refugees (COMAR in its Spanish acronym) have not responded to their requests: they ask that they be granted an Office of Departure or regularize their stay one way or another. That is why thousands of migrants have been stranded for several months in the Tapachula immigration stations without employment and basic services.
The caravan moved rapidly along the state’s coastal highway that leads to the southern state of Oaxaca towards Huixtla, its first planned stop. It crossed two checkpoints guarded by State Police and the National Guard, one of them being the Viva Mexico bridge where they shouted “Goodbye, Tapachula!” in front of the public forces.
Around 4:30 p.m. 30 kilometers from the point of departure, at Xochiltepec community, the caravan was stopped by elements of the INM, the State Police and the National Guard. Migrants were surrounded by the authorities, causing them to flee among the bushes, pastures and agricultural crops. Before that, about 150 had been assured that they were behind the caravan and were transferred to the Siglo XXI Migration Station in Tapachula.
Luis Garcia Villagran, lawyer and activist for the rights of migrants, who accompanied the caravan said: “They came on us like there was a war, rather there is a sordid war here. I was with my wife and about 200 agents arrived, between Migration and National Guard. We showed them that they all brought documentation, that they were all shelter applicants. Then the pulling began, the pulling changed to beatings. They even took children to the hospital.”
However, the official INM statement states that its officials “convinced” foreigners to return to Tapachula using trucks provided by the authorities, or on foot along the road. It says that “with full respect for human rights [the INM] carried out actions to invite foreign people who made up the contingent that left the city of Tapachula to go to the Institute to know the options to regularize their stay in the country.”
It also said that all the migrants who participated in the caravan were transferred to the Siglo XXI Migration Station while the activist Irineo Mujica, president of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said that about 300 were locked in Siglo XXI, another 280 in Tuxtla Gutierrez and a small Group of 90 in Huixtla. Cases of family separation were also recorded.
This caravan was the first mass migration movement since Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ratified an agreement with Donald Trump, president of the United States, which aims to contain illegal migration and occurred after numerous protests made by migrants in Tapachula, demanding that the authorities expedite their paperwork so that they can continue their journey to the United States.
For more information in Spanish:
Nueva caravana de migrantes sale de Tapachula, Chiapas (Multimedios, el 12 de octubre de 2019)
Frenan autoridades caravanas de migrantes (Cuarto Poder, el 13 de octubre de 2019)
Las autoridades mexicanas paran una caravana de casi 3.000 migrantes, incluyendo cubanos (14 y medio,l 13 de octubre de 2019)
Guardia Nacional bloquea caravana de migrantes africanos en Chiapas (Animal Político, 13 de octubre de 2019)
Migración detiene y encierra a solicitantes de refugio pese a tener papeles (Animal Político, el 14 de octubre de 2019)
For more information from SIPAZ:
Chiapas: African Migrants Clash with National Guard in Tapachula (October 8, 2019)