SULLIVAN CITY, Texas (Border Report) — About 1,500 asylum-seeking migrants who set off from southern Mexico last month in caravans headed north faced roadblocks, injuries, heat exhaustion and reported beatings by Mexican officials, according to a report by a non-governmental organization that provided the migrants with medical care.
The migrants traveled in at least three caravan groups that left the southern Mexican town of Tapachula near the Guatemala border on Aug. 21, Aug. 23 and Aug. 25. They were bound for Mexico City and the Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (COMAR) to try to persuade Mexican officials to resume asylum appointments and to move up the timeframe for asylum cases, according to an internal report by Global Response Management provided to Border Report.
The field report was produced by medical professionals from GRM who traveled with the caravan until Sept. 2 and documented helping hundreds of migrants during their journeys before Mexican forces disbanded the caravans on Sunday.
These photos were taken by GRM and document their assistance to migrants who were part of the caravans. (Photos by Global Response Management)
The largest caravan had about 700 migrants and was the first to leave Tapachula on Aug. 21 and faced a “violent intervention” by Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) and National Guard, according to the report. GRM workers on Day 2 treated about 100 patients, the report said. They also gave out water bottles to the migrants.
When the second caravan of 300 migrants departed on Aug. 23, it was soon joined by about 300 more migrants, and INM once again intervened and even erected roadblocks 55 miles north near the town of Mapastepec in the state of Chiapas, according to the GRM report.
“That day there was another intervention from INM and NG, they blocked the road before Mapastepec and catched (sic) around 100 migrants. Due to this we could only assist around 50 people,” the report said.
Medical workers with GRM “found a Haitian family on a road with a pregnant lady lying on the ground,” they wrote. The family told GRM the woman had been beaten and they were afraid to go to the hospital, but eventually went with the assistance of GRM.
On Aug. 24, GRM workers found a group of 20-30 people hiding in a church near Mapastepec. Workers caught up with the second caravan soon after “and assisted around 150 people” with medical care, the report said.
The next day, GRM “assisted around 200 people” who were part of the third caravan that left Tapachula.
On Aug. 26, several days into the trek, they treated eight men from Honduras and Haiti who “were in pain because their feet were blistered,” the report said.
Mexican border agents on Sunday broke up the remaining group of 800 migrants from the caravans, which had been sleeping at a basketball court in the town of Huixtla, about 25 miles from Tapachula, the Associated Press reported.
The migrants were mostly from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, but many were also from Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela, according to media reports. Most said they were fleeing poverty and crime in their home countries, and traveling with young children, Reuters reports.
These were the latest groups in a string of caravans this past year to try to make the trek from Tapachula. Migrants told GRM that the next appointments with COMAR were delayed until January and the migrants wanted their asylum cases processed faster.
Over 77,000 migrants have applied for protected status in Mexico this year, overwhelming the Mexican refugee system, according to the Associated Press. At least 55,000 migrants have applied in Tapachula, where shelters are full. This includes thousands of Haitian migrants who are stuck in Tapachula and who have increasingly become frustrated and have been protesting recently. Many have been waiting there for months, some up to a year, for asylum requests to be processed.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador admitted the strategy of containing migrants in the southern part of his country was not working and more investment is needed in the region to keep Central Americans from leaving their homes. Over 14,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to the southern border to quell migrants.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, told Border Report on Wednesday that he was unfamiliar with the GRM report and is unaware of new caravans presently forming. But he said Mexico’s response to the groups of migrants is helping to lower the number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S. Southwest border with Mexico.
“It looks like Mexico has stepped up some of the immigration work they’re doing at the southern border and so we’re seeing that and that has a play on what happens here at our border with Mexico,” Cuellar said Wednesday as he prepared to announce $3.5 million in federal funding for flood mitigation in the South Texas border city of Sullivan City in Hidalgo County.
“There’s been conversations between the United States and Mexico on getting Mexico to do more at the southern border and certainly we’re seeing that. It might be a little bit too early but I think you’re going to start seeing numbers going down because of policies here at the border and what Mexico does at its southern border,” Cuellar said.