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‘We are suffering’: African migrants seeking asylum in the US, halted in Mexico, now report inhumane conditions

in Immigration & Migration by

While the press covers deplorable conditions and treatment at detention centers along the US-Mexico border, currently, the pleas for help from 3,000 African migrants and asylum seekers at the Mexico-Guatemala border go largely ignored. 

“We are suffering . . . our human rights are violated . . . many of us will die here,” said Jeffrey, a migrant from Cameroon who has been in Tapachula for months.

“Hundreds of families spend the night outside in the rain,” detailed Jeffrey. 

Back from a visit to see the conditions of Africans in Tapachula, Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration said in an open letter:

Black migrants in Tapachula report observing pregnant African women and children sleeping in the streets; maggot-infested food; unsanitary conditions; starvation and thirst; and receiving inadequate medical attention or none at all.

Trapped in political limbo, Mexico has amped up the practice of stopping and holding Africans in transit to the US. At a press conference called by the Assembly who represent 15 countries, Jeffrey, along with four other migrants, detailed in several languages how thousands of Africans are being detained.

“[Mexican officials] made us to sign documents that we did not understand,” Jeffrey explained. 

He went on to say, “They gave us a document talking about our alleged statelessness, and tricked us by telling us that with that document we can travel without being arrested. Those of us who tried were detained and again returned to Tapachula.”

Now, depleted of resources to survive, thousands of migrants must fend for themselves in a hostile climate created by a deal struck by the Donald Trump and Andrés Manuel López Obrador Administrations.

Early in the year, Trump pushed Mexico to be more aggressive in halting the flow of undocumented migrants crossing the US-Mexico border.

Gyamfi explained. “Mexico adopted a torturous practice of unjustly arresting migrants headed to the U.S. and detaining them in Tapachula . . . While all migrants traveling through Mexico to the U.S. are being subjected to harsh treatment, Black migrants state that racism and xenophobia on the part of the Mexican government are making their situation worse.”

Accounts given during the press conference told how Mexican law enforcement and military met Africans with violence when they attempted to leave. Detailing how they live in daily trauma, a member of the African delegation cried after he reported his experiences at the press conference.

Migratory routes stalled

The migrant trail to the US through Mexico is an established road. Even for African migrants who have used routes that pass through South and Central America then through Mexico . 

“For many years, Tapachula has also been the port of entry to Mexico for people, for these people, not Central Americans, but from the Caribbean, mainly Haiti and Cuba, and extra-continental: Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and some Asian countries,” explained Salvador LaCruz Operations Director for the Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center in Chiapas, Mexico said in an interview with AJ+ News.

However, the country’s customs department has increased its measures to stop undocumented migrants from arriving to the United States due to the Trump Administration’s pressure to enact tariffs.

Unlike Trump’s Administration claiming that undocumented migrants from Black and Brown countries are criminals, the Assembly claim that they do not come for economic benefit. Rather, they migrated due to other reasons in which they relocate more as refugees.

“I was told that I don’t look like an immigrant,” said Jeffrey. “We [émigrated from our countries because] we are political. Most of us belong to different political, social ideologies and for that reason we are persecuted . . . or because of our religious beliefs . . or our social background.

Gyamfi along with the Assembly say that all of the detainees traversed through over ten countries in inhospitable terrain before they made it to Mexico. Most fled persecution in their country.

We “demand the Mexican government allow migrants to travel to the U.S. border to exercise their right to asylum,” wrote Gyamfi.

At press time, there has been no change to African migrants stuck in Mexico.

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