The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned that the migrant caravan currently traveling through Mexico is likely to include people fleeing “real danger” in their countries of origin.
UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, today that “in any situation like this it is essential that people have the chance to request asylum and have their international protection needs properly assessed, before any decision on return/deportation is made.”
The federal government last week warned members of the caravan, made up mainly of Hondurans, that if they enter Mexico illegally, they will be detained and deported.
However, after attempts to prevent the caravan from entering Mexico on Sunday proved futile, the migrants have walked and/or traveled on the back of trucks or in other vehicles through Chiapas unimpeded.
The government invited the UNHCR to help attend to the migrant caravan, whose numbers have been estimated as high as 7,000 people.
Most of the migrants don’t have visas and haven’t formally requested asylum with the National Immigration Institute (INM).
Around 200 migrants remain camped out on the bridge in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, on the border between Guatemala and Mexico waiting to enter Mexico legally, the newspaper Milenio reported.
Edwards said that as of yesterday there were 45 UNHCR staff in Tapachula, Chiapas, and that others are en route.
“Working in support of the Mexican authorities, our teams are providing staffing and technical help to ensure timely registration of asylum seekers, setting up identification and referral mechanisms for those with specific vulnerabilities and needs, and increasing assistance and shelter capacity,” he said.
“Of concern to UNHCR at present is the developing humanitarian situation and the known kidnapping and security risks in areas the caravan may venture into. Stabilizing the situation has become urgent. It is essential that there are proper reception and other conditions for those seeking asylum as well as for others on the move.”
Most members of the caravan have now reached Huixtla, a Chiapas municipality about 40 kilometers north of Tapachula.
The Chiapas Attorney General’s office said that an unidentified man believed to be a member of the migrant caravan died yesterday after falling from a vehicle on the Tapachula-Huehuetán highway.
Migrants camping out in Huixtla’s main square last night lit candles in homage to their deceased companion.
The migrants are resting in the town today where local residents and church groups have been providing food and clothing. The municipal government provided two partially covered sports facilities and the Red Cross has been handing out water.
Tomorrow they plan to set out for Mapastepec, a coastal municipality just over 60 kilometers north of Huixtla.
The final destination for most is the United States’ southern border where they intend to seek asylum.
The migrants appear to be undeterred by United States President Trump’s threats to deploy the military and close the border.
“I’m very exhausted, I hope I can bear it [the journey to the U.S.], I want to be able to have a house to provide a future for my children, I’ve got three little ones. I left Guatemala because of crime, poverty and threats,” Rafael Suárez said.
Irineo Mujica, a member of the migrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders), hit back at Trump’s claim that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the caravan members.
“Donald Trump says there are terrorists in the caravan; they must be the women, the bombs must be the diapers,” he said.
“It’s a disgrace that this powerful president uses this caravan for political purposes.”
Trump admitted today that he had no proof that anyone from the Middle East was traveling among the migrants but suggested there might be.
A second caravan of migrants left Honduras on Sunday with plans to travel through Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Tamaulipas to reach the border city of McAllen, Texas.
Source: Milenio (sp)