On March 23rd, between 50 and 70 migrants, mainly from Central American countries, clashed with Federal Police and National Guard agents inside the Siglo XXI Migration Center in Tapachula.
Given the worldwide spread of COVID-19, Guatemala closed its borders on March 17th and asked Mexico to end the deportations of Central American migrants. For this reason, many find themselves unable to return to their countries of origin or continue their journey through Mexico to the United States. They are trapped in Tapachula.
In addition to that, at least two shelters on the border between Guatemala and Mexico stopped their service due to the pandemic meaning that migrants who have not been detained by elements of the National Guard are in a high risk situation as they have no place of refuge.
Information on the events of last Monday at the immigration station was obtained through interviews with witnesses and victims.
They reported that there was a protest by a group of migrants in the courtyard of the men’s module at around 5 pm to express their fear in the context of COVID-19 and demand their release or return to their countries of origin. Previously, they had repeatedly denounced the conditions in the migration station, which has severe overcrowding, food and water shortages, and limited medical care.
In response to the protest, a brigade of Federal Police and some 20 National Guard agents entered, who dispersed the group using pepper spray and water jets. According to what was documented by the Human Rights Observation and Monitoring Collective, they dragged the protesters to the bathrooms, a place without surveillance cameras, to punish them with kicks and punches, as well as Taser devices for electric shocks.
They then led people by bus to an unknown location. “It is urgent to find out how many people were removed from the Migration Center, where they are and what the current physical and mental health situation is,” said Conexion Migrante.
In a statement, the Collective for Observation and Monitoring of Human Rights in Southeast Mexico and the Driving Group against Immigration Detention and Torture expressed that they condemn “energetically all acts of violence and the use of disproportionate force against people, men, women and adolescents in immigration detention.” They demand “that the facts be clarified, those responsible be punished and that the physical and mental integrity of all persons who are in immigration detention or other forms of deprivation of liberty be guaranteed.”
They also pointed out that according to Article 1 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment “the term ‘torture’ shall be understood as any act by which serious pain or suffering is intentionally inflicted on a person; whether physical or mental, in order to obtain information or a confession from her or from a third party.”
For its part, the National Institute of Migration (INM) published a statement stating that “it seeks to implement actions so that migrants of Central American origin, housed in migratory centers and provisional stays of the institute, can return safely to their places of origin.”
For more information in Spanish:
Comunicado de las organizaciones de derechos de migrantes (25 de marzo de 2020)
Guardia Nacional reprime violentamente protesta de migrantes en Tapachula, Chiapas (Conexión Migrante el 25 de marzo de 2020)
Activistas mexicanos denuncian violencia contra inmigrantes que protestan por temor a coronavirus (Infobae el 26 de marzo de 2020)
Migrantes quedan atrapados en México por COVID-19 (Chiapasparalelo el 25 de 2020)
For more information from SIPAZ:
Chiapas: Migration Authorities Stop Migrant Caravan in Tapachula (October 17, 2019)
(October 8, 2019)