Migrant caravan languishes in filthy conditions on Mexico-US border

Tijuana camp: ‘It cost me a lot to walk almost 15 to 20 hours a day. And to go back now: no!’

The young, old, brave and bold cool their heels in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The young, old, brave and bold cool their heels in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

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Several thousand central American migrants are stuck in a filthy, overcrowded sports complex within tantalising sight of the United States, facing sickness and indefinite delays.

There appears no immediate end in sight to their plight amid shifting US border policies that bars them from crossing.

Since the bedraggled men, women and children of a caravan of mostly Hondurans began cramming into the complex in the Mexican border city of Tijuana about three weeks ago, there have been multiple cases of respiratory illness, lice and chicken pox, according to city sources.

With too many to fit into shelters in a city used to receiving deportees and migrants, the caravan was ushered into the complex to await a US-Mexican response. It has travelled about 4,800km (3,000 miles) since mid-October.

The temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
The temporary shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Migrant caravan: Tents pitched in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Migrant caravan: Tents pitched in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Hoping for refuge in the US while waiting in the migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Hoping for refuge in the US while waiting in the migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters
A life less ordinary in Tijuana migrant camp, Mexico. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters
A life less ordinary in Tijuana migrant camp, Mexico. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

“It cost me a lot to walk almost 15 to 20 hours a day. And to go back now: no!” said Anabell Pineda (26), curled for warmth inside a tent in the stadium beside a neat pile of bags and rolled-up blankets.

Pineda, who had travelled for almost a month from the violent northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula with her six-year-old son, said she had arrived in Tijuana 13 days earlier, feeling unwell.

When she learned it would be nearly impossible to cross into the US, she resolved to get a work permit in Mexico.

How frustrated are they?

Mexican police blocked hundreds of the central American migrants on Sunday when they staged a protest in front of the border.

When some made their way towards the border fence, US authorities shot tear gas at them and sparked a panic among the crowds marching on the Mexican side.

Back in the complex, men washed using buckets in a shower area beside a line of reeking portable toilets and giant mud puddles. Women, wary of uninvited gazes, bathed with clothes on.

Inside a gymnasium where the caravan’s first arrivals had set up neat rows of thin mattresses, a city official said migrants faced a chicken pox outbreak.

US president Donald Trump threatened this week to “permanently” close the US-Mexican border if Mexico does not deport the 7,000 central Americans gathered in Tijuana.

Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray, who leaves office this weekend, responded on Wednesday. He said central American migrants are welcome to stay in Mexico.

But he said the migrants have a right to request asylum in the United States, and Mexico has repeatedly refused US requests to force them to seek refuge there instead. – Reuters

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