TAPACHULA, Mexico – Shelters for Central American migrants in Mexico are facing enormous challenges because of the lack of resources, overcrowding and the rise in crime.
Even though immigration enforcement was bolstered after US President Donald Trump was sworn in, this did not lead to a decline in migration flows as some had expected, Olga Sanchez, founder of the Good Pastor shelter in the Mexican southern border town of Tapachula, told EFE.
According to Sanchez, winner of the 2004 National Human Rights Award, instead of attempting to reach the United States, many migrants have decided to stay in Tapachula and other Mexican towns, creating serious challenges for migrant shelters throughout the country.
Official figures confirm that Mexico, which has long been a transit country for Central American migrants, has started to become a destination country in the last few years.
In 2017, the Mexican Commission on Aid to Refugees (COMAR) registered 14,596 requests, some 66 percent more than in 2016.
The Good Pastor shelter in Tapachula, which opened in the 1990s, is one of the largest on Mexico’s southern border, receiving upward of 350 people at a time.
When the Central American migrant caravan was about start off at the end of March, some 160 people would crowd into each of the shelter’s rooms.
Human trafficking, which especially affects LGBT migrants, is another challenge that shelters must face.
According to Sanchez, five migrants had recently arrived in the shelter, saying they had travelled to Mexico because they found a job announcement online seeking people “with nice figures.”
The shelter’s staff has seen this type of job announcement before and have cautioned migrants to not be deceived by thieves and human traffickers.
Many migrants “find a way to go back home, because they are deceived, it is a big lie,” Sanchez said, adding that many supposed job announcements lead to migrants being robbed and even killed.