August 28, 2021

By Jose Torres

TAPACHULA (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and the Caribbean departed the southern Mexican city of Tapachula en masse on Saturday in a caravan headed to the Mexican capital, where they hoped to seek expedited asylum proceedings.

The group of approximately 500 people included families with young children from Haiti, Cuba, Central America, and Colombia, according to a Reuters witness.

The caravan comes after days of protests by migrants in Tapachula, who have been demanding their cases be expedited so they could leave the southern state and relocate to other parts of Mexico or head to the U.S. border without risking deportation, according to local news reports.

Under Mexican law, migrants must remain in the state where they sought asylum until their cases are resolved, a process that can take months or years.

On Saturday morning, dozens of migrants gathered around a banner reading “Tapachula Migrant Prison” before they began marching through the streets, waving flags and chanting “Yes We Can,” according to a video posted on social media.

Both Mexico and the United States have witnessed high levels of migration this year, particularly from Central America, where violence, poverty, and a hunger crisis have driven hundreds of thousands to flee.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have conducted more than 1.2 million arrests or expulsions of migrants crossing the U.S. border since October.

Mexico is facing mounting pressure from Washington to take steps to curtail U.S.-bound immigration.

In recent weeks, the Mexican government has sent thousands of migrants to southern Mexico by plane, where they are transported by bus to the Guatemalan border.

The United States has also urged Mexico to clear tent cities where thousands of migrants are camped out in dangerous Mexican border towns hoping for the chance to cross into the United States.

(Reporting by Jose Torres in Tapachula and Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey, Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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