CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Mexican officials
are urging Haitians on the Texas border trying to reach the
United States to give up and return to Mexico's frontier with
Guatemala to request asylum, even as discontent grows over the
treatment meted out to the beleaguered migrants.
Up to 14,000 mostly Haitians were camped just north of the
Rio Grande river this month as they attempted to enter the
United States, but hundreds retreated to Mexico after U.S.
officials began sending planes of people back to Haiti.
On Thursday, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti quit in protest
over the Biden administration's deportations of migrants to the
Caribbean nation, which has been rocked by the assassination of
its president, gang violence and natural disasters.
That followed widespread outrage stirred up by images of a
U.S. border guard on horseback unfurling a whip-like cord https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-homeland-security-chief-heads-border-removal-migrant-camp-accelerates-2021-09-20
against the migrants near their camp.
Yet pressure is also growing on U.S. President Joe Biden to
tighten the border, and Mexico's National Migration Institute
(INM) is starting to return migrants to the southern Mexican
city of Tapachula so they can file asylum applications there.
"We're not taking them out of the country," INM chief
Francisco Garduno told Reuters. "We're bringing them away from
the border so there are no hygiene and overcrowding problems."
Haitians who made the perilous, costly journey from
Guatemala to Ciudad Acuna on the Mexico-U.S. border are
skeptical about the merits of going back to a city where they
had already unsuccessfully tried to process asylum claims.
Willy Jean, who spent two fruitless months in Tapachula,
said if Mexico really wanted to help the migrants, it should
allow them to make their applications elsewhere.
"Tapachula's really tough, really small, there's lots of
people," he told an INM agent trying to persuade him to go
south. "There's no work, there's nothing."
The United States has returned nearly 2,000 migrants to
Haiti from the camp at Del Rio, Texas opposite Ciudad Acuna, and
taken close to 4,000 people into custody, the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) said late on Thursday.
The Del Rio area, which includes the camp where families
have crammed into makeshift shelters made of reeds on the banks
of the Rio Grande, now holds some 3,000 people, DHS said.
Mexican official data show Haitians are already far less
likely to have asylum claims approved in Mexico compared with
many nationalities, even if their chances are starting to
Last year, of all asylum claims that were formally resolved,
only 22% of Haitian cases won approval, compared with 98% for
Venezuelans, 85% of Hondurans, 83% of Salvadorans and 44% of
Cubans. So far this year, the Haitian number is up to 31%.
Asylum requests have overwhelmed Mexico's Commission for
Refugee Assistance (COMAR), which is scheduling appointments
months away, if at all. Some Haitians in Ciudad Acuna said they
had left Tapachula because they were so fed up with waiting.
"It basically pushes Haitians out," said Caitlyn Yates, a
migration expert at the University of British Columbia.
Soggy papers discarded in the grass near the Rio Grande
showed that a Haitian man who applied for a humanitarian visa in
August would have had to wait until December for an appointment.
Telling migrants eyeing the U.S. side of the border that it
would be better to process claims before the media disappeared
from Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna, INM agents swept through the camp
on Thursday beseeching them to go back to Tapachula.
"We're giving you this option," INM official Montserrat
Saldana told a cluster of migrants circled around her. "All of
you who cross the river are going straight to Haiti."
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by
Alberto Fajardo and Lizbeth Diaz
Editing by Dave Graham and Gerry Doyle)