African migrants stuck in southern Mexico, their American dream on hold

By PATRICK J. MCDONNELL 

“Africa weeps. Free us.”

That’s the message handwritten in French and Spanish on a protest bannerat a tent city here in the southernmost tip of Mexico.

The tents belong to some 250 African nationals who crossed jungles, forded rivers, sneaked across borders and dodged militias and thieves to get here in hopes of eventually reaching the United States. But now they are stuck, because Mexico has denied them the travel visas necessary to proceed north.

Mexican national guard troops and riot police keep close watch over the multi-hued camp, where mosquitoes swarm in puddles. Rain and a fetid stream provide cooking water and many complain of rashes, stomach cramps and other ailments.

“We are fed up,” said Diop Abou, 33, a native of the northwest African nation of Mauritania. “None of us want to be here in this miserable place.”

In the saga of migrants trying to reach the United States, the dominant narrative of late features Central Americans, who account for the vast majority of the 100,000 foreigners whomMexico has deported this year under pressure from the Trump administration to prevent them from reaching the U.S. border.

But Mexico’s effort to accommodate Washington — and avoid tariffs that Trump threatened to impose — has also targeted thousands of other foreigners, including more than 1,000 Africans who have amassed in southern Mexico over the last several months.

The tent city was erected in protest more than a month ago at the entrance of Tapachula’s federal immigrant detention center, which is called Siglo 21, or 21st Century.

The lockup is reserved primarily for people awaiting deportation, mostly Central Americans.

Mexican authorities apprehended a record 4,779 migrants from Africa in the first seven months of this year — nearly four times the number detained during the same period in 2018 — but deported only two.

The difficulty is that many African countries have no embassies or consular representatives here, and some of the migrants possess no verifiable identification. And so the majority remain stranded.

Those interviewed here said they fled violence, persecution and poverty, ethnic and religious strife and political repression back in their homelands.

The lockup is reserved primarily for people awaiting deportation, mostly Central Americans.

Mexican authorities apprehended a record 4,779 migrants from Africa in the first seven months of this year — nearly four times the number detained during the same period in 2018 — but deported only two.

The difficulty is that many African countries have no embassies or consular representatives here, and some of the migrants possess no verifiable identification. And so the majority remain stranded.

Those interviewed here said they fled violence, persecution and poverty, ethnic and religious strife and political repression back in their homelands.

MEXICO-GUATEMALA-US-AFRICA-HAITI-MIGRATION-PROTEST

“The military comes after anyone who speaks English,” said Elvis Azo, 29, from Cameroon, a central African country facing both an insurgency among its English-speaking minority and attacks from the Boko Haram Islamist faction. “They burn houses. They kill people.”

Nearby, Sani, 33, said he was among more than a dozen people at the camp who had fled the West African nation of Ghana to escape systematic persecution of gay men.

“They are killing us,” said Sani, who lifted his shirt to reveal scars on his abdomen that he said were a result of being attacked with acid.

He said his family’s home was burned down, and he didn’t want his full name published because he feared for the safety of relatives in Ghana.

“ I am a wanted man back home,” he said.

Jack Lume, 33, a tailor from Togo in West Africa, displayed a photograph on his cellphone of a memorial service. The body of a young man lay on white satin inside an open coffin surrounded by mourners.

“That’s my brother,” Lume said. “They killed him. Politics, politics. They kill people.”

The Africans embarked in search of what many call “the American dream” after hearing about migrants who reached the United States through Mexico.

Read more from source Los Angelese Times

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