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Protest in Mexico as raids intensify

Hundreds of migrants have gathered outside the Mexican immigration office in Tapachula to protest against police raids on small hotels and other places of shelter where migrants have been staying.

The migrants protested outside the offices of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) in Tapachula, near the Guatemala border on Friday.

They demanded documents that would regularise their stay in Mexico or let them cross without being detained.

Raids have occurred before, but this week activists say agents swept up people from sidewalks outside migrant shelters.

Many are forcibly returned to their home countries.

Agents are prohibited from entering the shelters to detain people, but many migrants have camped out around the overcrowded facilities.

Salvadoran migrant Mario Guzman was detained by immigration agents a few weeks ago in Tapachula’s central park, even though he had papers showing he made a claim for asylum.

“They told us those papers were no good, they were fake, and they ripped them up,” said Guzman, who was held for three weeks at an immigration detention centre and given two weeks to leave Mexico.

A group of about 30 migrants called for a hunger strike to demand that authorities speed up the issue of papers so that they can leave Tapachula.  

Irineu Mujica, an activist with People without Borders, said it is taking almost five months for migrants to get their papers, so he joined the hunger strikers promising to be with the migrants “for as long as my body can handle”.

The immigration institute said on Monday there has been a surge in detentions, with the number of migrants detained in Mexico up 78 percent in January from a year ago.

It said 16,740 migrants, mainly from Central America, were detained in January, compared to 9,406 over the same month last year.

It was unclear if the number of migrants was less last year because of last winter’s coronavirus surge, or for some other reason.  

Children and young people under age 18 made up 14.5 percent of the migrants detained, and a total of 780 were found to be unaccompanied by family members, the agency said.

Tapachula has become a way station for migrants from Central America, Haiti, Cuba and other places, because Mexico requires many people file for refugee or asylum status there.

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