Hundreds of migrants in southern Mexico scramble to seek asylum
TAPACHULA, Sept.28 (Reuters) – About 1,000 migrants flocked to a stadium in southern Mexico on Tuesday to request appointments to seek asylum in the country as the national refugee agency grapples with a growing demand that has exceeded its capabilities.
Thousands of other migrants have gathered in the town of Tapachula, on the border with Guatemala, often waiting months for responses to their asylum claims, a vacuum that many migrants without jobs and money find intolerable.
Large numbers of Haitian migrants made their way to Del Rio, Texas this month, forming a camp of 14,000 people just north of the Mexican border. Mexican authorities are now urging Haitians who have retreated to Mexico, fearing that they will be deported to Haiti, to complete their asylum claims in Tapachula.
A few hundred migrants were already lining up at 5 a.m. on Tuesday and several hundred more joined during the day to make sure they could hang on to appointments in a system that is booked until ‘at the end of the year.
The Mexican Commission for Assistance to Refugees (COMAR) said those with appointments until October 20 and who did not show up between Tuesday and Thursday would lose their seats.
Most of the asylum seekers gathered at the stadium were from Haiti, the nationality which ranks second for most asylum claims in Mexico this year, after Hondurans.
A representative of the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, told migrants in line that snaked through the stadium’s parking lot that the process of checking appointments would free up space for others.
“There are no new places,” he said. “Once there is room, they will offer you the corresponding information.”
Some people have been turned away.
Chenet, 38, a migrant from Haiti who did not give his last name, said he paid someone in Tapachula 6,000 pesos ($ 300) to secure a date, without realizing that ‘it was a fraud.
“They say there is nothing right now, there is no date,” Chenet said.
($ 1 = 20.0490 Mexican pesos)
Report by Jose Torres in Tapachula; Written by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Aurora Ellis
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