A caravan with more than 4,000 migrants leaves Tapachula

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The large group of people seeks to reach the center and north of the country after living in the border city of Chiapas without access to basic needs

A caravan with at least 4,000 migrants left this Monday from the Bicentennial Park of Tapachula, in the State of Chiapas, according to several NGOs. Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had already denounced in September the poor conditions in which thousands of people lived in the city on the border with Guatemala, where they were waiting to regularize their situation in Mexico in some saturated offices of the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (Eat).

The caravan began its march this morning through the city and took federal highway 200, which runs along the Pacific coast towards the town of Arriaga. In this Chiapas municipality that borders the State of Oaxaca, MSF has a humanitarian aid base that awaits the large group of migrants, although its general project coordinator, Gemma Domínguez, reports that these types of crowds are usually dispersed before arriving. In 2021, the Government already deployed several operations with hundreds of agents to stop the movement of migrants.

This Monday at noon, the caravan is stopped in the small town of Álvaro Obregón, as Univisión journalist Pedro Ultreras explained in a telephone call. The town, which with 6,000 inhabitants is almost overwhelmed by migrants, is a three-hour walk from Tapachula, and the migrants have settled there waiting to resume their march this Tuesday. The previous days have been rainy in southern Chiapas due to the clouds of tropical storm Pilar, which is heading to the State from the Pacific. “The migrants are among the parks, the houses, there is not much protection if there is a storm like the one in recent days,” Ultreras described.

The departure of the caravan comes after months of tension in Tapachula. Last Monday, September 25, between 5,000 and 6,000 people gathered in front of the Comar headquarters, which had been closed for four days. A group of migrants who had been waiting for several days tried to force their way into the offices and the municipal police and the National Guard had to break up the protests. Some people report that they have to wait months to resolve their documentation in the town.

Comar has registered a record number of applications this year throughout the country. Until September 2022, they had received 86,376 migrants, while this year the number rises to 112,960. More than 50% of these requests have been attended to in the institution’s office in Tapachula. There, thousands of people were stranded without access to health services, water and sanitation, according to MSF. Andrés Ramírez, director of Comar, has confessed on several occasions that the entity he directs “cannot do more,” as he declared last May on W Radio.

That month saw the end of Title 42 in the United States, a mechanism that the then president, Donald Trump, established during the pandemic to be able to return migrants immediately at the border between Mexico and his country. Its extinction caused thousands of people to cross Central America seeking to reach the northern border with the United States, and that month of May, any previous number of applications in Comar was exceeded, which received 14,331 people.

Caravans like the one that left Tapachula this Monday are a form of travel that migrants use to protect themselves from the dangers of the route. The first crowds began leaving in groups from various Central American countries in 2018, usually with the aim of reaching the border with the United States. They are also a form of pressure to try to speed up bureaucratic processes and regularize their situation. The last precedent in Mexico was in April of this year, when a group of 3,000 people left Tapachula after months of waiting for a humanitarian visa in the country.

Mexico is in an unprecedented migration crisis, in a year in which more people in an irregular situation have been arrested than any other in recent times. So far this year, the National Migration Institute has counted 501,709 “events with irregular migrants,” a euphemism that the institution uses to refer to detentions. It has already exceeded the figure for all of 2022.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, organized a summit on October 22 with the leaders of 10 Latin American and Caribbean countries to seek structural solutions to the migration phenomenon. The main conclusion that emerged from the document signed by all those present was that the United States economic sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba contribute to migration. The NGOs expect more specific solutions, while they denounce the bad situation that forces migrants to leave en masse from places like Tapachula, where basic needs are not guaranteed.

Source: El Pais