Mexico pulls migrants from the southern “prison city” and fends off another caravan

TAPACHULA, Nov. 25 (Reuters) – Mexican officials have begun dispersing hundreds of migrants gathered in the southern city of Tapachula by bus to other states, aiming for a new caravan heading north.

The migrants, mostly from Haiti and parts of Latin America, had been in limbo in Tapachula in the state of Chiapas while enduring long waits for asylum and visa applications to be resolved.

Migrant rights activist Luis Carcia Villagran has called the city a “prison” because migrants could not leave without paperwork. Two groups of migrants had departed in mass caravans heading north in recent weeks, in part to highlight their plight and demand a response from the Mexican government.

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Transfers from Tapachula began Wednesday night with 120 Haitian migrants transported to the states of Aguascalientes, Campeche and Durango, an official at the Mexican National Migration Institute (INM) said on Thursday.

More migrants will be taken to the states of Puebla and Guanajuato, and they will be able to continue their applications for asylum status and visas, the person added and spoke on condition of anonymity.

INM official Hector Martinez in Tapachula told migrants that a total of 20 buses would leave the city today.

Officials had begun similar transfers of migrants in the city of Mapastepec in Chiapas on Tuesday, dissolution of a caravan that had left Tapachula several days before. The migrants agreed to leave the route and be taken elsewhere in exchange for Mexican visas.

In Tapachula, Haitian migrant Wilguens Antoine said he did not know where Mexican officials would take him, but was relieved to leave Tapachula, where he had no money to pay for accommodation or take care of his family.

“I’m happy, because I’m going to another city where I can work to help my family,” he said shortly before boarding a bus provided by migration officials.

Villagran said about 600 people are expected to be evacuated from Tapachula.

“This is a way to avoid the mass movements of Haitians, Cubans and all the people who were prepared to leave tomorrow (in a caravan),” he said.

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Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Edited by Richard Chang

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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