Migrants in limbo strain resources of Mexican border towns
The U.S. has started sending some asylum seekers back to Mexico, while their applications are processed. They’ll join the thousands who are still waiting in Mexico to file claims, as thousands more head north from Central America. Mexican residents worry how they’ll support the growing crowds of refugees on their doorsteps. CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock has more.
After crossing Mexico in November, those remaining from last fall’s Central American migrant caravan are still stuck at the U.S. border, waiting to plead for asylum. Their numbers have gone down from a high of 5,000 to about 1800 now. Those who remain are moved from camp to camp, clutching numbered tickets issued by U.S. border authorities that give them a chase to plead their case.
“They give you an asylum number, and at the moment they’re at number 1,882,” says Alan, a migrant from Honduras. “My number is 2,017 so I’ve still got a few weeks to wait.”
Alan passes the time with his friends playing football, listening to music and smoking marijuana. Yet the migrant caravan has been fractured and not all are in the government camps.
“In order to get into one of the camps, you have to have a Mexican humanitarian visa,” Alan says. “But once you’ve applied for asylum in Mexico, you can’t apply to the United States. America won’t consider you, because Mexico already gave you asylum.”
It’s created a diplomatic limbo and left many on the streets of Tijuana, where they aren’t popular with the locals.
“This Christmas, migrants from Honduras started pick-pocketing, and there was a lot of violence over that,” says Tijuana resident Luis Tirillo. We don’t know what to do with these people, because there’s supposed to be coming more, and sooner or later it’s going to be a big confrontation, because this is escalating. They want to stay in Tijuana, and Tijuana is not for them.”
Cesar Palencia heads up the Tijuana government’s Migrant Attention program. He faults the federal government for allowing the city’s capacity to respond to the influx to be overwhelmed.
“We had a federal government that washed its hands of the issue and did nothing to handle the problem,” says Palencia, “But here, with an open-borders federal policy, thousands of migrants arrive in the space of two or three days. Just imagine. No city could be ready for such a phenomenon.”
And Palencia knows the next wave is coming. As yet another Tijuana-bound caravan prepares to enter Mexico from the south, local authorities struggle to handle the crowds of Central American migrants already here. But with asylum in the U.S. more difficult to attain, this town will likely have to absorb thousands more refugees.