Nearly 300 Central American migrants who planned to take part in an annual “Viacrucis” (stations of the Cross) protest have been confined by Mexican immigration checkpoints who have threatened to detain them if their papers are not in order, activist have said.
Undocumented migrant activists have protested their treatment in Mexico for several years, by carrying wooden crosses around Easter week, to illustrate their suffering and calling for greater protection of Central American migrants travelling north to the United States through Mexico.
Due to these threats, the “Hermanos en el Camino” (Brothers on the Way) shelter, run by Priest Alejandro Solalinde in the town of Ixtepec in the southern state of Oaxaca, has been packed by migrants who claim they are afraid of being detained at the checkpoints set up near the town.
Solalinde and his volunteers report they have been forced to work around the clock to feed and accommodate around 400 people.
Accompanied by members of Amnesty International, Solalinde, an outspoken advocate for migrant’s rights who in the past has risked his life to denounce human rights abuses against Central American immigrants on their way to the United States, told a news conference on Tuesday (April 14), the protesters had planned to leave for Mexico City last week but said the migrants would now leave on Wednesday (April 15).
The objective of the protest is to demand that human rights violations towards thousands of Central American migrants by federal authorities stop.
“The “Viacrucis” protest (stations of the Cross) had to change course. It had to take a different expression and it means that enough is enough for migrants. We don’t want this situation of death anymore,” Solalinde said.
Executive Director of Amnesty International Mexico, Perseo Quiroz, who said that the operatives by migration authorities towards the state of Veracruz, are another example of the lack of the government’s interest to protect and safeguard the rights of migrants.
“The operative of control and security implemented by migration authorities, together with the federal police, is nothing more than an extension of contempt for human rights, shown by the federal government in recent dates,” Perseo said.
After the news conference, Father Solalinde and Amnesty International activists went to the first checkpoint set up by migration officials and the federal policemen along the Salina Cruz – La Ventosa highway, that connects Oaxaca with the state of Veracruz.
They allowed a native Guatemalan migrant girl to hand a flower to the Commissioner of the National Migration Institute Ardelio Vargas Fosado, who in turn said he would not allow access to anyone without their papers in order.
“What I have simply told them (migrants) is that from the first moment we were in contact, is that people who don’t have their papers in order to stay in the country, will not go through. We spoke about that before. We spoke with the priest and he said the “Viacrusis” protest would reach Ixtepec and it would end here. However, it was not like that,” Vargas said.
Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said in a statement that it will keep checkpoints at least 6 miles (10 kilometres) from Ixtepec.
They added their agents were unarmed and human rights observers were present in the area.
It said the checkpoints were needed to protect migrants, without taking into consideration their legal status in the country.
Countless Central American migrants journey some 1,900 miles (3,000 km) overland along train tracks through Mexico hoping for a better life in the United States, braving drug cartels, human trafficking rings and death for a better life across the border.