Migrant caravan that clashed with police in Mexico disbands

AP , Monday 4 Apr 2022

A group of migrants traveling by foot from southern Mexico to the United States disbanded Sunday, after Mexican authorities agreed to expedite immigration procedures following clashes.

Members of the National Guard clash with migrants taking part in a caravan heading to Mexico City, as they prevent them from going through, on a highway in Tapachula, state of Chiapas, Mexico, on April 1, 2022. AP

The travelers, mostly from Central America, had left the southern Mexican city of Tapachula -- which borders Guatemala -- on Friday, but were stopped hours later by a roadblock set up by security personnel.

Scuffles broke out when they tried to ram their way through several rows of National Guard agents blocking their path with riot shields.

Activist Luis Garcia Villagran, who was accompanying the group, said authorities agreed to transfer about 200 people -- mainly from Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba and Nicaragua -- to southern Mexican states for their paperwork.

He had earlier blamed immigration authorities for causing the exodus by being too slow to process the group's asylum requests.

In a statement issued by the National Institute of Migration, the government agency called for the group not to "become hostages of the interests of third parties, who claim to defend their human rights".

It added that Mexican laws have established routes to maintain safe and orderly migration.

For years, undocumented migrants have traveled through the country, fleeing poverty and violence and hoping to cross the northern border.

While some pay traffickers to smuggle them in trucks, others join so-called caravans undertaking the long journey on foot, enduring hunger, exhaustion and the cold.

In response, Mexico has set up checkpoints to stop the migrants' advance.

US President Joe Biden's arrival to the White House a year ago -- carrying promises of a more humane approach towards immigration -- fueled an increase in the numbers of undocumented individuals making the journey.

This number is expected to ramp up next month after the United States on Friday announced it would end a public health order requiring the immediate expulsion of migrants at its southern border to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Put in place in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, the border restriction will be lifted May 23.

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