First migrants from Central American ‘caravan’ arrive in Mexico City

More than 1,000 bed down in sports stadium where city government has set up food kitchens

Migrants, part of a “caravan” travelling towards the United States,  carry a Honduras flag and a cross in Pijijiapan, Mexico, on Sunday. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Migrants, part of a “caravan” travelling towards the United States, carry a Honduras flag and a cross in Pijijiapan, Mexico, on Sunday. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

 

The first Central American migrants from a “caravan” travelling through Mexico towards the United States in hopes of seeking asylum arrived in Mexico City on Sunday, taking up temporary shelter at a sports stadium.

More than 1,000 Central Americans, many fleeing gang violence and financial hardship in their home countries, bedded down at the stadium where the city government set up medical aid and food kitchens.

Ahead of US congressional elections on Tuesday, President Donald Trump has warned repeatedly about the advance of the caravan and ordered thousands of troops to the Mexican border, where units strung up razor wire this weekend.

The migrants arrived in the capital, nearly 800km from the closest border crossings in Texas, four weeks after setting out from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.

“Our heads are set at getting to the United States, to fulfil the American dream,” said Mauricio Mancilla, who travelled with his six-year old son from San Pedro Sula. “We have faith in God that we will do this, whatever the circumstances.”

Thousands more Central Americans were moving in groups in the Gulf state of Veracruz, the central state of Puebla and in the southern state of Chiapas, local media reported.

“This is an exodus,” Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest and migrant rights activist, told reporters. “It’s without precedent.”

The US government has pressured Mexico to halt the advance of the migrants and President Enrique Peña Nieto has offered temporary identification papers and jobs if they register for asylum in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Mexico’s government said on Saturday it was processing nearly 2,800 asylum requests and that around 1,100 Central Americans had been deported.

At the capital’s famed shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, a group of Mexican volunteers called out on bullhorns, offering bus rides to migrants to the stadium.

Cesar Gomez, a 20-year old Guatemalan, said he jumped at joining the caravan to avoid the dangers of travelling alone and paying thousands of dollars to human smugglers.

“This was a good opportunity,” he said as he waited for a ride. “The first thing is to try for the United States. If not, maybe I will stay here.” – Reuters