While President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) met in Washington with his North American counterparts to discuss, among other issues, migration, a new caravan of migrants left on Thursday from Tapachula, Chiapas.
The new group heading north seems like a new reminder of the urgent need to seek options to manage the growing migratory flow in the region, one of the priorities AMLO hoped to convey to President Joe Biden.
Approximately 2 thousand migrants, Most from Central America and Haiti left Tapachula in a boisterous spectacle, carrying their belongings in backpacks or in packages on their heads. Young children were on their parents’ shoulders or in strollers.
Honduran Alex Leyva said it is the second time he has tried to travel north in a caravan. The first time he left with another group on October 23, but was forced to give up due to becoming ill.. Agents from the National Migration Institute (INM) returned him to Tapachula, where he had already started the process to request asylum in Mexico.
“My country is in the worst economic situation, crime, famine, there are no studies, there is no education for the cipotes (children),” he said. “So we decided with my wife if we can achieve our goal (of a better life).”
Local police controlled traffic as the migrants walked to the outskirts of the city, but authorities did not try to stop them. The previous caravan Leyva had traveled with is now in the state of Veracruz, but it has shrunk to several hundred migrants after having grown to about 4,000.
Luis García Villagrán, coordinator of the Center for Human Dignification, said that The migrants are requesting documents that allow them to be anywhere in Mexico but denounced that even those who receive them have been detained by immigration agents and returned to Tapachula.
In this city, near the border with Guatemala, migrants are increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of asylum procedures and complain that they have not been able to find a job that allows them to support their families, since this area , where the Mexican government is containing foreigners who enter the country irregularly, it is just the poorest part of Mexico and where there are fewer employment options.
The caravans began several years ago as a way for migrants who do not have the money to pay human smugglers feel safer traveling in groups to the US border. However, the Guatemalan and Mexican authorities have systematically dissolved them.
The group that is now in Veracruz is the first that has managed to advance so much in the last two years and the government chose on this occasion to offer humanitarian visas to the vulnerable population. Many have accepted but many others distrust because they fear that, instead of being transferred to other states to make the arrangements more quickly, as the authorities promise, they will be returned to Tapachula or to their countries of origin.
This same Thursday Amy Pope, deputy director general of the International Organization for Migration, visited Tapachula, where she signed an agreement with local authorities to open a new information window, like others that this UN agency has in Mexico, to improve the guidance and advice to foreigners on regularization procedures, job offers or public services to which they can access.
In his opinion, it is urgent that all the governments of the region launch in a coordinated way humanitarian actions, investments in the communities that are welcoming migrants and the fight against migrant smuggling. Above all, it is vital to generate “alternative legal channels” of regularization, such as employment visas. “The answer cannot just be about offering asylum,” he said in an interview with the AP.
AMLO, during his meetings on Thursday in Washington with Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, opted to continue investing in the development of the countries of origin and stressed that it is necessary to “stop rejecting migrants” in a systematic way. “Why not study the demand for labor and open the migratory flow in an orderly manner?” He said.
Pope, who before arriving in Mexico visited the Darien jungle, between Colombia and Panama, the other bottleneck through which migrants travel to North America, considered that the moment is optimal because although each country will have to develop its own plan of action, within a regional framework, “there is political will to do it.”
Migrant caravan Chiapas AMLO INM Immigrants International Organization for Migration