Mexico close a government camp that helped migrants in Oaxaca


The National Institute of Migration said that it will continue to support migrants in “other facilities”

Mexico City — The Mexican federal government dismantled its own huge camp that served migrants in a remote town in the state of Oaxaca, through which nearly 150,000 people have passed, obtaining temporary transit documents with which, for the most part, they continued their journey to the border with the United States.

The National Institute of Migration (INM) reported the closure of its temporary facilities in the town of San Pedro Tapanatepec in a statement last Monday night, although it did not explain the reasons for the decision. The press release only indicated that migrants will continue to be supported in “other facilities” that it did not specify.

The camp, located in the narrowest part of southern Mexico, which opened at the end of July as suddenly as it has been closed now, had the objective of decongesting migrants from the city of Tapachula, the gateway to the southern border, facilitating transit permits in the face of the continuous protests of migrants in that place.

At its peak, some 15,000 people gathered in five large tents set up on the outskirts of Tapanatepec where for 134 days there was a constant flow of migrants: some arriving and others leaving after several days with their documents.

The majority were Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, many of whom had been sent to that place by the authorities themselves upon arrival in Mexican territory.

According to federal government data, by early November more than 135,000 migrants had passed through there, 50,000 of them in October alone.

The official figures for November and December have not yet been published but, as explained by local officials and the non-governmental organization such as Doctors without Borders (DWB)present in the municipality—, the issuance of documents did not stop and the procedures were greatly expedited from last Thursday.

“What we observed is that the number of immigration personnel increased, the speed of the process increased a lot, and the same day (migrants) could already leave” with their documents, Helmer Charris, head of immigration, told The Associated Press by telephone.

The organization held its medical consultations Tuesday for migrants who remained in the town, between a thousand and 3,000, depending on who you ask.

There were members of the National Guard, the army and the police in the town who tried to disperse the migrants peacefully, Charris explained. The foreigners were “quite tense, quite frustrated because they don’t know what to do, they can’t buy tickets,” he added.

From the city council they agreed that there was a lack of information. Modesto Martínez, the municipal secretary, told the AP that the immigration authorities only told them that they were leaving. “People were stranded waiting for information, but there was none and many advanced without permission, adrift,” he added.

The municipality had already requested the federal government to close the facilities because they could not cope with the migrants.

The immigration authorities began issuing this type of document in the middle of the year as a way to break up the groups that were walking out of Tapachula. The majority were made up of Venezuelans, a difficult nationality to return to their country, both from Mexico —which can only do so with specific agreements with Caracas— and from the United States —which does not have diplomatic relations with the government of Nicolás Maduro.

The permits — like those given to tourists at airports — allowed the migrants to cross Mexico.

In mid-October, the United States launched a plan to, on the one hand, grant temporary visas to 24,000 Venezuelans who entered by air but, on the other, began to expel those who arrived by land back to Mexico.

Around that time, the permits issued in Tapanatepec were stamped saying that the document was only valid in that state, a strange legend for a transit permit issued in a non-border state, such as Oaxaca.

Those documents continued to be issued until last week.

The closure of the camp comes as the United States prepares for the possible removal — by court order — of a restriction on asylum imposed by former President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic.

Suppressing this measure, which is being disputed in court and involves expedited expulsions at the US-Mexico border, could generate a knock-on effect, no matter how much the Joe Biden administration insists on the message to migrants not to cross illegally because they will be returned .

Meanwhile, Tapachula remains the main city in receiving asylum applications with 64% of the more than 111,000 received this year, according to data from the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance.

Many of its residents fear that by continuing the arrival of migrants, the city will once again become a plug of growing tension.

Source: Dallasnews