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African migrants at an immigration office. milenio

Chiapas sees surge of migrants from Africa

12,000 reported to have arrived in Tapachula in 35-day period

The wave of African migrants crossing Mexico from south to north in hopes of entering the United States as refugees shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the numbers have soared: during the last month, 12,000 more arrived in the southern border town of Tapachula, Chiapas.

“Migratory flows have been regular for three years but between August 22 and September 25, 11,900 have requested entry,” said Jordán de Jesús Alegría Orantes of the National Immigration Institute (INM).

The Siglo XXI migratory station in Tapachula reported 668 migrants came from the African continent in 2013. The following year the number increased to 1,279, and last year it was up to 3,200.

According to the INM, most migrants come from Congo, followed by Ghana, Senegal and Somalia, all fleeing armed conflicts and poverty.

Their route takes them across the Atlantic Ocean by airplane or ship to Sao Paulo, Brazil. From there they cross the rainforest to Peru where they travel by boat, bus or truck, and at times on foot, across Central America until they get to Mexico.

Most are males aged on average between 26 and 35, although Alegría said that lately the number of children and women — who are often pregnant — has increased to between 10 and 15% of the total.

“So far we haven’t received any refugee requests; [the migrants] say they want to reach the United States and are only traveling through Mexico to get there,” he explained.

Migrants in transit receive a special 20-day permit that allows them to remain and move within national territory “with full respect for their human rights.”

Alegría stated that in contrast to what’s happening in the northern border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali, where services and shelters can barely cope with the constant flow of migrants, in Tapachula the flow has reactivated the city’s economy.

Migrants book cheap, 100-pesos-per night hotels and eat in local restaurants, and when they’re ready to leave they buy bus tickets en masse. On average, a ticket to Tijuana or Mexicali costs 1,500 pesos, said the immigration official.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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