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INM official helps migrants fill out paperwork An official helps migrants fill out paperwork at an INM office. Photos from INM Facebook page

800 migrants abandon caravan for temporary visas

However, activists say at least some migrants' leaving was not voluntary

Exhausted from walking through Chiapas over the past three weeks, 800 migrants have abandoned the migrant caravan, currently in Oaxaca, to regularize their migratory status in Mexico, the National Immigration Institute (INM) said Wednesday.

The INM said in a statement that 800 migrants in situations of “vulnerability” had received temporary humanitarian visas or permanent resident status.

“… Among those who have received the documents are girls, boys and adolescents, as well as pregnant women [and] people with an illness or disability,” it said.

The institute called on the remaining members of the caravan, which has reached the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, to regularize their status.

Its statement read like an advertisement for the benefits of turning oneself in to the INM, even though the institute has a reputation for treating migrants inhumanely.

migrant getting medical testing
A migrant undergoes testing at INM offices.

“… One migrant woman accompanied by her two children indicated in INM offices in the state of Morelos that she chose to carry out the regularization paperwork to favor her own safety and that of her family,” the statement said before quoting the woman.

“Walking and finding somewhere to eat is very complicated. With this [visa] card, being here in Mexico is much more comfortable,” she said, according to the INM.

The institute quoted another migrant as saying that caravan members had been deceived and that “when we found out that several colleagues already had their [visa] cards, we also turned to [the INM].”

“… Meanwhile in Oaxaca, girls, boys and adolescents, at their mothers’ sides, celebrated on the stairs of the immigration offices,” the INM statement said.

The newspaper El Universal reported that Central Americans, South Americans and migrants from Caribbean countries such as Haiti and Cuba began abandoning the caravan shortly after entering the state of Oaxaca from Chiapas. They had walked to the Isthmus region from the city of Tapachula, from which the caravan departed in late October.

After approaching INM personnel in the municipality of San Pedro Tapanatepec, migrants were transported to INM offices in the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Morelos, Hidalgo and Guerrero to regularize their status. Migrants were also offered temporary accommodation in shelters in those states.

Interior Minister Adán Augusto López said Friday that approximately 1,200 migrants are still with the caravan.

“… Yesterday they covered 31 kilometers from Zanatepec to Santiago Niltepec,” he said, adding that the caravan had split into two and one group reached the latter town two or three hours before the other.

“The last ones arrived at about nine last night, and it’s expected they’ll walk 25 kilometers today,” López told the president’s morning press conference.

Last week, the group’s number had been estimated at about 2,500.

The interior minister acknowledged that about 800 migrants had voluntarily left the caravan. But some migrant activists spoke of arrests rather than caravan members turning themselves in voluntarily, the news website Latinus reported.

José, a 32-year-old Honduran, said he would continue with the caravan and steer clear of INM personnel. “… They have a lot of people locked up,” he said.

He is far from the only migrant who doesn’t trust Mexican authorities. Members of the caravan refused to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing in Santiago Niltepec on Friday morning because they believe it’s part of a strategy to halt them, El Universal reported.

They also refused face masks despite many of the migrants looking sick and coughing, the newspaper said.

According to El Universal, the migrants claimed that the authorities are attempting to instill “psychological terror” in Oaxaca communities by claiming the caravan is COVID-ridden.

“It’s not humane that the government of Mexico is telling people not to offer help [to us], to close their doors, not to give us medical care,” one migrant said.

“… Since we entered Oaxaca, they’ve been going ahead, terrorizing people. First, they said we had tuberculosis, now COVID.”

With reports from El Universal and Latinus

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