Dozens of migrants clashed with police in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula on Tuesday, as frustration boiled over due to authorities keeping them waiting for months to be granted approval for free passage across Mexico to the U.S. border.
Migrants, mostly from Haiti and Africa, have been demonstrating in Tapachula, near Mexico’s border with Guatemala, for almost a month, and on Tuesday the protests turned violent as they threw stones and traded punches with members of the militarized National Guard and police.
“It got completely out of control because people are very desperate,” said Irineo Mujica, a human rights activist who has supported migrant mobilizations for years. “Many have been waiting for months” for permission to leave the city, he added.
The National Migration Institute issued a statement condemning “the violent demonstrations” outside its facilities in Tapachula. The agency said that some 100 migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Africa were protesting in efforts to secure earlier appointments for their immigration processing.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of migrants, mostly Central Americans, flee violence and poverty at home and cross Mexico in efforts to reach the United States.
Those arriving at Mexico’s southern border cities must wait for permits to cross Mexico or responses to their asylum requests to stay in Mexico.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Mexican authorities to look for more options to avoid the bottlenecks in cities like Tapachula.