Migrant Caravan in Mexico
February 6, 2019
by Larry Towell
"About 12,000 men, women and children are currently trying to reach the United States through Mexico. Most of them are divided into three large caravans. When I arrived in Mexico City on November 9, 2018, the first caravan of several thousand people had just stopped over five days earlier. They had walked from the Chiapas area as fast as possible, stopping only to sleep, at a rate of 50 kilometres a day. After these few days of rest, they took to the road again, this time on buses, trucks and private vehicles.
For six days, I followed them for nearly 2,700 kilometres, from Mexico City to Tijuana. Every morning, the alarm clock rang at 4:00 a. m. Everyone packed their things and they set off together to the nearest tollgate. In large cities, municipal buses took them there. In the smaller ones, they had to walk almost an hour to reach the place. There, they boarded vehicles slowed down by the gates, one after the other.
Their days were to move as fast as possible towards their final destination. Every evening, at 9pm, the group would meet to decide on the next day's program. Were they going to travel 100, 200 or 500 km? Where were they going to stop over for the night? Some migrants were acting as leaders. I even saw, among them, some megaphones.
Mexico has opened its doors to migrants. In each major city where the caravan stopped, a stadium or municipal site was made available to accommodate it. Churches, municipal police, Red Cross, NGOs... all have worked hard to help them by providing them with clothes, blankets, food and water, and by helping them get on board of trucks. Only the federal government stayed away, anxious not to attract the wrath of Donald Trump.
The city of Tijuana, for its part, was fundamentally hostile. When the caravan arrived in mid-November, anti-migrant demonstrators held up their placards to demand their expulsion. It is in this malicious context that men, women and children are now trying to cross the border, recently reinforced on the American side. I had the feeling that most of these refugees did not know where to go next, once they arrived on American soil. In border cities, their chances of obtaining refugee status are 3%. In New York, it rises to 80%. Their journey is far from over."
(Larry Towell, December 2018)
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