Migrants hope to re-start protest convoy in Mexico

AP News
Posted: Apr 14, 2015 9:33 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Migrant rights activists said Tuesday that about 200 Central American migrants hope to re-start a journey to hold a "Viacrucis" protest in Mexico City, after highway immigration checkpoints stymied their trip last week.

For several years, migrants have carried wooden crosses in protest marches in Mexico around Easter week to illustrate their suffering at the hands of criminals and corrupt police.

The convoy of buses carrying the migrants had planned to leave Thursday from the city of Ixtepec, in southern Oaxaca state. But the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who runs a shelter for migrants in Ixtepec, said authorities threatened to arrest on human-trafficking charges the owners of buses rented to carry the protesters.

Solalinde's shelter said the migrants now plan to set out on Wednesday. And Amnesty International called on Mexican authorities to guarantee security for the migrants on the Wednesday trip.

Mexico's immigration agency said Monday it was respecting the migrants' rights, and that its nearest checkpoint was 5.5 kms (3 miles) from the shelter.

Migrant rights activists had complained the checkpoints basically had the migrants — a total of over 400 at the shelter — surrounded and intimidated.

Mexico's National Immigration Institute has said its agents are unarmed and human rights observers are present in the area.

The protesters are calling for an end to immigration raids that have largely prevented them from the riding a freight train north toward the U.S. border.

Solalinde said raids begun last summer to stop hitchhiking on the train had forced migrants to use more dangerous routes. He said that while about 15 percent of migrants were victims of robbery, extortion, assault and other forms of abuse previously, about 90 percent are victimized now.

"Before, they could get through faster and look after each other" on the train, Solalinde said. "Before, a stretch that would take them 12 or 13 hours, now it takes them a month. They are taking a dozen longer, more dangerous routes, where they are robbed or extorted."