Xalapa, a new migration route for Haitians and Central Americans

There are hundreds of Haitian and Central American migrants who continue to arrive in Veracruz in search of reaching the United States; the constant siege by organized crime, however, has caused them to look for new routes to reach their destination. Xalapa is one of them.

Xalapa, a new migration route for Haitians and Central Americans
Migrants train surfing in Mexico at night. Image: Wikimedia

Hundreds of Haitian and Central American migrants continue to arrive in Veracruz in search of reaching the United States; however, the constant siege by organized crime has caused them to seek new routes to reach their destination. Xalapa is one of them.

Until a few months ago, southern Veracruz was the only forced passage for undocumented migrants, who have fled their countries in search of better opportunities in North America. However, the constant siege by organized crime has led them to move to new routes that take them to the north of the country, such as Xalapa, Veracruz port, and Boca del Rio, where they have been seen mainly in the bus stations.

"Today in Xalapa they are also transiting; what they want is to advance where they can, where they are not looked for, where they go unnoticed," said Germán Guillermo Ramírez Garduza, president of the Casa del Migrante Santa Faustina Kowalska in Coatzacoalcos ("Saint Faustina Kowalska Migrant House"). The migrants, he said, move mainly at night for fear of being detained by immigration authorities or intercepted by a criminal group.

Shelters are saturated

The migratory flow through Veracruz began to increase two months ago. In a single day they have counted up to 500 people - entire families, mothers with babies, and even pregnant women up to five or eight months pregnant - of which only 20 percent take the train, while the rest move on foot or by bus.

The high numbers of migrants, mostly from Haiti, have saturated the shelters. The Casa del Migrante Santa Faustina Kowalska alone has received up to 300 people and, when the number is higher, they have been forced to leave the women and children in the facilities and transfer the men to camps in the beach area.

Despite this, Ramirez Garduza foresees that, in the next four months, more than 5,000 Haitian migrants will pass through Coatzacoalcos, which would further aggravate the situation. "They want to get to the United States, very few want to stay in Mexico and, if they do, they stay in Monterrey or Mexico City.

Targets of crime

The migrants' journey through Mexican territory has not been easy. After escaping famine and repression in their country, they arrive in Mexico, where they are extorted, kidnapped, or violated. For every 100 migrants, 35 are victims of organized crime. In addition, they have had to deal with abuse from the Mexicans themselves, who see in them an opportunity to raise the cost of their services.

"If they, let's say, have a ticket that costs 50 pesos, they are giving it to them for 500 pesos. They have been vulnerable everywhere. Many people complain about them, but they are being squeezed to the max," Garduza accused.

Vulnerable to authorities

But the abuses have not only been on the part of the population. Dawid Bartelt, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Mexico, claimed that, in a short time, they have returned "to a repressive and conditioned migration policy", where the same authorities have violated the human rights of migrants.

"We have multiple accounts of abuses committed by the National Migration Institute; migration centers today are practically detention centers for people who have not committed any crime," he said.

Another phenomenon affecting migrants is that the Mexican government allowed the previous US administration to apply the safe third country policy; that is, it has accepted the obligation to receive migrants who come to the border to request refuge. More than 90 percent of the requests for refuge, he said, continue to be denied and people have to return to Mexico, where they are sent to camps with very undignified conditions, in what he called a rather shameful immigration policy.

In the last two months, the National Migration Institute and the National Guard have dispersed at least four caravans of migrants from Haiti and Central America in various parts of the country. Data from the Migration Policy Unit indicate that, in the first seven months of the year, in Veracruz, there have been 5,125 migrant returns to countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, a figure which has placed the state in third place nationally, only behind Chiapas, with 15,496, and Tabasco, with 6,177.

More complaints

Through its transparency portal, the State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) in Veracruz reported that from 2018 to 2021, the agency received 25 complaints about human rights violations committed by authorities or public servants against migrants. Likewise, from 2019 to 2020, the CEDH issued 80 certificates of vulnerability in favor of women and 19 in favor of migrant girls.

In this period, the Ministry of Public Security has been the agency with the most complaints about human rights violations, accumulating nine; eight have been registered against City Councils; three against the State Attorney General's Office and the IPAX, and two against the DIF.

According to the agency, the city of Veracruz ranks first statewide in terms of complaints, with five; followed by Acayucan, with four; Coatzacoalcos and Orizaba two, respectively; and Xalapa, Agua Dulce, Alvarado, Córdoba, Cosamaloapan, Cosoleacaque, Jáltipan, Juan Rodríguez Clara, Poza Rica, Río Blanco, Tierra Banca and Tuxpan, with one case each.

Source: Imagen de Veracruz