The migrants forced their way into the refugee aid offices after days of waiting to process their documents
The exterior of the office of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) in Tapachula, south of Chiapas, has become the landscape of thousands of migrants waiting to finish their request for asylum in Mexico. Men, women and children have to wait days to even be able to speak with an official, and the patience of some of them ran out this Monday, when a group of migrants, mostly Haitians, forced their way into the institution’s offices. What happened was a mix of desperation on the part of the new arrivals across the Guatemalan border and the lack of resources from a headquarters that has been collapsed for several years: it receives more than half of the asylum requests from all of Mexico. The outcome is that two altercations have occurred in a single week at the COMAR branch in Tapachula.
This Monday, between 5,000 and 6,000 migrants gathered around nine in the morning at the COMAR headquarters in front of Los Laureles market, east of Tapachula. At that moment “a group of Haitians” tried to force their way into the offices, which caused an avalanche of people that left two injured, according to a statement from the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB). In front of the office there were 15 municipal police officers and 24 national guards who tried to safeguard the entrance to the institution, but they were overwhelmed by the number of people trying to enter.
The large influx of people is due to the fact that many of the migrants had been waiting in the city since last Thursday to resolve the procedure, as COMAR had to suspend service that day due to lack of organization on the part of the migrants and on Friday the office was closed because it was Mexican Independence Day, a national holiday. SEGOB reported that despite the avalanche, on Monday they were able to serve almost 2,000 migrants.
Crowds in Tapachula are common as it is the entry point for migrants coming from Guatemala. Between January and August of this year, there has been a record number of asylum applications in the border city, with almost 54,000, which represents more than half of all those processed in Mexico between those dates. In addition, state data indicates that Mexican immigration institutions will exceed the 129,000 applications that occurred during 2021, a record year for asylum requests. It is estimated that there will be a total of 150,000 by the end of 2023.
The wait to receive the documents can last months, as is the case of Cuban Ariana de la Caridad Recio López, who told Efe that she has been in the city for a month and a half waiting for her documentation. However, many of the migrants arriving from Guatemala prefer to continue their route and process their asylum request in other parts of the country. For a month now, several NGOs have been carrying out an emergency intervention in Tapachula due to migratory pressure. Doctors Without Borders helps with primary care some of the between 600 and 800 people that the National Migration Institute transfers daily from Viva México, on the outskirts of the border city, to Tuxla Gutiérrez, according to Karolix Zambrano, activities manager for the NGO.
Zambrano explains by telephone that many people spend the night at the doors of the buses to continue their migratory route. “Many are homeless and vulnerable to diseases”, she explains. “We have provided primary care to more than 1,600 people”, a disproportionate increase that is noticeable in several areas of Chiapas, such as in Tapachula or in the municipality of Suchiate, further south.
Chiapas has been the gateway for hundreds of thousands of people who travel the Central American route for years. Immigration pressure increased in May of this year after Article 42 expired in the United States, which allowed border agents to speedily return migrants who crossed the border. From that moment on, thousands of migrants from the Caribbean and Central America began the route that crosses the Darién, a death trap between Colombia and Panama, and then continues through the countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, where people try to reach the border with the United States.
Translated by Schools for Chiapas