'We are not criminals': migrants protest in southern Mexico

FILE PHOTO: Activists and migrants from Haiti march to the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) to claim for their rights, in Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico September 15, 2021. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) - Hundreds of migrants stuck in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas on Wednesday protested against the country's immigration policies that have frustrated their efforts to travel to the United States.

Many of the Central and Latin American migrants, including a large Haitian contingent, have been stuck for months in the city of Tapachula near the border with Guatemala, complaining that authorities have stopped them from transiting through Mexico.

"We are not criminals, we are international workers," the migrants shouted.

Many of the Haitian migrants had arrived from Brazil and Chile, two nations where they fled to long ago to avoid the poverty back home. The Caribbean island is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, and its economy has been further hit by earthquakes, the coronavirus pandemic and political unrest.

The influx of migrants has overwhelmed Tapachula and the local migration infrastructure. Thousands of migrants can be seen sleeping in the open on the streets.

"We are begging to be let out of Tapachula, they are starving us," said Juliana Exime, a 30-year-old Haitian woman who has been in that city for two weeks.

"We are sleeping on the street, in the rain, we are getting sick, they want to kill us and even more so with that disease," Exime added, referring to COVID-19.

The Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mexican migration officials and military personnel have been criticised by rights groups for using violence to stem the flows of U.S.-bound migrants in the south of the country.

The United States has pressured Mexico to stop the migration flows and the government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has often deployed security forces to physically prevent the migrants from heading north.

Washington also has asked Central Americans not to undertake the dangerous journey north, with reports of kidnappings, extortion, rapes and even murder of migrants.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Tapachula; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Diane Craft)

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