Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Migrant caravan partially disbands in Chiapas

A migrant caravan of thousands that started its journey north on Dec. 24 has been dissolved after surrendering to agents of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) in Chiapas.

Dubbed the “Exodus from Poverty” and the “Christmas Eve Caravan,” by some newspapers, the caravan was the largest group of its kind in 2023, starting out with 6,000 to 8,000 people, according to media reports.

Some members of the caravan have elected to continue the journey on their own. (Damián Sánchez/Cuartoscuro)

Although many asylum-seekers had dropped out in recent days — to continue toward the U.S.-Mexico border at their own pace, to take a different route, or to simply call it quits — the group had advanced approximately 105 kilometers before the decision to disband.

After nine days on the road, the group began boarding INM buses in Mapastepec, Chiapas on Tuesday. The buses were bound for an immigration office some 50 kilometers away in Huixtla, Chiapas, to begin official “Refuge in Mexico” paperwork legalizing their transit.

Composed mostly of Central Americans, Venezuelans and Cubans, the caravan had already been through Huixtla on day two, which was Christmas Day.

Many of them slept in tents or on the ground at a sports field after walking some 30 kilometers under the hot sun — a Christmas “like we have never spent,” Honduran Karla Ramírez remarked at the time.

On Tuesday, immigration agents gave bus-boarding priority to children, mothers, women and vulnerable people. “We extend the invitation, and on a voluntary basis, to those who want to board the buses,” an INM spokesperson said.

Some migrants initially refused, wanting to continue onward toward Pijijiapan, Chiapas rather than backtrack to Huixtla.

Luis García Villagrán, a Mexico-based activist who was leading the group, told the migrants they would start an official immigration process with the Mexican government and then be taken to Mexico City.

“In the caravan, there are many sick children, pregnant women, disabled people,” Villagrán said, noting that 4,800 migrants remained in the group. He warned them that the next point, Pijijiapan, was 43 kilometers away and “there is no place to rest, and it would be about 18 hours walking. It is your decision.”

Migrant march in Chiapas
An estimated 6,000 migrants departed Tapachula on Christmas Eve, the largest to form last year. (Damián Sánchez/Cuartoscuro)

One migrant, Honduran Wilnber Abisai, said he wants his wife, two children and himself to be in Mexico legally.

“Yes, we are going to do the process,” he said. “We have already walked a lot, we have suffered, our feet hurt, walking 48 kilometers is not easy. We accept the INM’s proposal to do the process, and it’s the best option for continuing our path.”

As of Tuesday night, more than 600 migrants had boarded a dozen buses.

“No one is giving themselves up,” stressed Honduran William Adalí Romeo Pérez, traveling with his wife and three children. “We trust in immigration, but more so in God. The children are already tired and we can’t continue walking.”

The caravan included travelers from Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Venezuela, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil, Congo, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and others.

With reports from El Universal and Reforma

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