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Migrants stop to rest on a Chiapas highway. Migrants stop to rest on a Chiapas highway.

Forces break up a fourth caravan of migrants leaving Tapachula, detain 150

They won't be dissuaded from fleeing to save their lives, says migrants' advocate

About 150 members of yet another caravan of migrants were detained in Chiapas on Sunday.

Some 500 National Guard (GN) troops and National Immigration Institute (INM) agents carried out an operation early Sunday morning to detain migrants who slept in Huixtla after arriving on foot from Tapachula late on Saturday.

It was the fourth time in eight days that federal authorities confronted Haitian, Central American and South American migrants in southwestern Chiapas.

At about 5:00 a.m., GN members and INM agents surrounded a municipal sports complex where members of the 600-strong caravan, including many women and children, were sleeping.

When the migrants became aware of the authorities’ presence, many attempted to escape in darkness to the banks of the Huixtla River. But the security forces detained about 150 migrants, according to Tapachula-based newspaper El Orbe. Some were detained at the municipal facility while others were rounded up at other locations in Huixtla.

There was at least one clash between migrants and authorities during which sticks and stones were allegedly thrown by both parties.

Detained migrants were reportedly taken to the Siglo XXI migrant detention center in Tapachula, a city where thousands of migrants have been stranded due to the slow assessment of their asylum claims. Some, if not all, are likely to be deported to their countries of origin.

A Chiapas-based human rights monitoring and observation collective reported that children were separated from their parents during the early-morning operation in Huixtla.

A group of migrants who avoided capture gathered on train tracks in Huixtla and some continued their northward journey on rural roads, the newspaper Reforma reported. Others hid to avoid detention, while some took shelter in Huixtla churches and  homes.

The caravan members had planned to walk en masse to Escuintla on Sunday. It was unclear how many migrants made it to the town, located about 30 kilometers north of Huixtla, but some boarded northward-bound public transit services. El Orbe reported that federal authorities in Oaxaca were preparing containment operations in that state.

Ana Saiz, director of the migrant advocacy organization Sin Fronteras, said that operations against migrants – even those in which force is used as has occurred in recent days – won’t dissuade them from attempting to reach other Mexican cities or the United States.

“It’s clear that people who have fled to save their lives are absolutely determined,” she said. “… The only thing these operations do is force people to hide and seek more dangerous routes,” Saiz said.

“… What is needed is for them to be attended to, for the law to be complied with,” she said, adding that INM agents must be monitored by the National Human Rights Commission, the National Council to Prevent Discrimination and international organizations to ensure that agents don’t abuse their power.

More than 77,500 people filed asylum claims in Mexico between January and August, of which 70% were submitted in Tapachula. The city is located just north of the Suchiate River on the Mexico-Guatemala border, which hundreds of thousands of migrants have crossed in recent years en route to the United States or cities such as Mexico City and Tijuana.

With reports from El Orbe and Reforma 

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