As a migrant caravan makes its way through southern Mexico, at least a thousand of Haitian migrants gathered at a professional football stadium in Tapachula, Chiapas hoping to register for asylum in Mexico.
About 3,000 mostly Central American migrants advanced slowly on Friday along a highway near Mexico’s border with Guatemala after some rejected overtures from immigration agents to stop, preferring instead to take their chances on the northern trek.
The caravan made up of mostly of women and children arrived earlier in the day in the town of Acacoyagua, advancing 24 miles (38 km) from a previous stop in another southern Mexican hamlet, just beyond the border city of Tapachula, where the migrants began their journey.
Migrants advocate Irineo Mujica, one of the caravan’s leaders, said migrants mostly rejected the offer of so-called humanitarian visas from the agents in exchange for ending their journey. The migrants also would have had to report to government shelters and consent to be moved to other states, Mujica said.
He added that many were distrustful of the migration officials due to what he described as broken promises in the past, as well as some arrests and deportations.
The humanitarian visas would have temporarily regularised the migrants’ legal status in Mexico while granting them access to public services like healthcare, as well as the ability to work.
A press officer with the national migration institute said he could not provide any information on negotiations over the visas.
It remains unclear if the Mexican authorities will seek to break up the caravan. Previous caravans have faced off with migration agents and soldiers who have increasingly used tough tactics to stem the tide of fleeing migrants, many of whom want to escape violent gangs and grinding joblessness back home. Others are seeking asylum protections.
The Mexican government is under pressure from U.S. authorities to help reduce the flow and has deployed thousands of police and national guard soldiers to do so in recent months.
Mexico said on Thursday it would give humanitarian visas to children and pregnant women in a migrant caravan moving north from southern Mexico, adopting a softer approach to the task of containing migrant flows than at times taken recently.
Lasting a year, the visas grant migrants access to public services like healthcare, as well as the ability to work.
Thousands of migrants from Central America and the Caribbean last weekend began traveling slowly from the southern border in a bid to reach the United States or Mexico City.
According to a witness, the majority of the latest caravan members are families with young children.
A major caravan moving through Mexico last month met with often heavy-handed resistance from Mexican authorities, sparking complaints about their tactics and even condemnation from President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
As recently as Saturday, some 400 law enforcement officers in anti-riot gear tried to block the caravan’s path at a highway checkpoint in the city of Tapachula near the Guatemalan border.
One family, including small children, was knocked to the ground in the struggle.
Still, a Mexican authorities did not want to become embroiled in violent confrontations due to the number of children and pregnant women in the caravan.
A caravan of migrants who originally intended to reach Mexico City are now headed to the U.S./ Mexico border, according to a caravan leader. Made mostly of Central Americans, the group of 4,000 started near the Guatemalan border.
But dangerous conditions, clashes with Mexico’s National Guard and government officials, have slowed the group’s progress and brought their numbers down to 1,300 people. An activist who organized the group says tensions with Mexican officials pushed the caravan to change their route toward the U.S. and they will try to organize another caravan to travel with them.
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