Hundreds of migrants leave Mexico City headed for border

Migrants children, part of a caravan traveling from Central America en route to the United States, look from a truck after resting with others in a makeshift camp in Matias Romero, Mexico, November 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 November 2018

Hundreds of migrants leave Mexico City headed for border

  • Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas to the migrants, and its government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families
  • The migrants made a big point of sticking together, their only form of self-protection

MEXICO CITY: About 900 Central American migrants headed out of Mexico City on Friday to embark on the longest and most dangerous leg of their journey to the US border, while thousands more were waiting one more day at a massive improvised shelter.
The group that got a head start bundled their few possessions and started off, taking a subway to the north part of the city and then hiking down an expressway with a police escort.
For many, it was the first time they had ever been in a metro system, and they had little knowledge of the city or the 1,740 mile (2,800 kilometer) route to Tijuana that lay ahead of them.
Carlos Castanaza, a 29-year-old plumber from Guatemala City, wrapped himself from head to toe in a blanket against the cold and asked bystanders where the first toll booth was. When told it was in a town about 20 miles (30 kilometers) away, he carefully wrote the name of the town on his hand with a pen to remember where he was going.
Deported for driving without a license after a decade working in Connecticut, Castanaza was desperate to get back to his two US-born children. “I’ve been wanting to get back for more than a year, but I couldn’t until the caravan came through,” said Castanaza. “That’s why I joined the caravan.”
The advanced group hoped to reach the north-central city of Queretaro, about 105 miles (170 kilometers) to the northwest, by nightfall.
Meanwhile, at least 4,000 migrants milled around the massive shelter improvised at a Mexico City sports complex, impatient to leave.
Ninety percent of the remaining migrants will depart the stadium early Saturday on their long trek to Tijuana, first taking the subway to the northern exit from Mexico’s capital, according to Nashieli Ramirez, director of Mexico’s Human Rights Commission.
From there, they will pass through the Mexican cities of Queretaro, Guadalajara, Culiacan and Hermosillo on their way to the US border, Ramirez said, adding that 400 Mexicans had chosen to stay in Mexico City.
The governor of Queretaro state, Francisco Dominguez, said the migrants would stay at Corregidora stadium in the state’s capital and that authorities were ready to host 4,000 people.
Meanwhile, migrants in the stadium in southern Mexico City were getting impatient.
“Let’s go, let’s go!” shouted Eddy Rivera, 37, a rail-thin migrant from Honduras who said he couldn’t take staying in the camp any longer. “We are all sick, from the humidity and the cold,” said Rivera, who left behind four children and a wife in Honduras. “We have to get going, we have to get to Tijuana.”
Though he was unsure how an unskilled farmworker like himself would be allowed in the United States, he had a simple dream: earn enough money to build a little house for his family back in Puerto Cortes, Honduras.
Thousands of migrants have spent the past few days resting, receiving medical attention and debating how to proceed with their arduous trek through Central America and Mexico which began in mid-October. On Thursday, caravan representatives met with officials from the local United Nations office and demanded buses to take them to the border, saying the trek would be too hard and dangerous for walking and hitchhiking.
Caravan coordinator Milton Benitez said officials had offered them buses for women and children but organizers demanded that they be for everyone. By Friday, the migrants said they were so angry at the UN’s lack of help that they no longer wanted UN observers with the caravan.
The United Nations on Friday denied the offer, releasing a statement saying its agencies “are unable to provide the transportation demanded by some members of the caravan.”
The migrants made a big point of sticking together, their only form of self-protection.
Felix Rodriguez, 35, of Choluteca, Honduras had been at the Mexico City sports complex for more than a week.
“We all want to get moving,” he said. But he was waiting for the main group to leave Saturday, noting “it is better to leave in a group, because leaving in small bunches is dangerous.”
Mexico City is more than 600 miles from the nearest US border crossing at McAllen, Texas, but the area around the Mexican border cities of Reynosa, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo is so rife with drug gangs that the migrants consider it too dangerous to risk.
A previous caravan in the spring opted for the longer route to Tijuana in the far northwest, across from San Diego. That caravan steadily dwindled to only about 200 people by the time it reached the border.
“California is the longest route but is the best border, while Texas is the closest but the worst” border, said Jose Luis Fuentes of the National Lawyers Guild.
Mexico has offered refuge, asylum or work visas to the migrants, and its government said 2,697 temporary visas had been issued to individuals and families to cover them while they wait for the 45-day application process for a more permanent status. On Wednesday, a bus left from Mexico City to return 37 people to their countries of origin.
But many want to continue on toward the United States.
Authorities say most have refused offers to stay in Mexico, and only a small number have agreed to return to their home countries. About 85 percent of the migrants are from Honduras, while others are from the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

Updated 25 August 2019

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan targeted by new rape complaint

  • A woman in her 50s accused Ramadan of raping her along with a member of his staff
  • He has been charged in France with raping two women previously

PARIS: Tariq Ramadan, a leading Islamic scholar charged in France with raping two women, has also been accused of taking part in the gang rape of a journalist, French judicial sources said Sunday.
The sources confirmed reports on Europe 1 radio and in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that a woman in her 50s had accused Ramadan, 56, of raping her along with a member of his staff when she went to interview the academic at a hotel in Lyon in May 2014.
The woman, who filed a criminal complaint in May 2019, also accused Ramadan of issuing “threats or acts of intimidation” aimed at dissuading her from reporting the alleged attack to the police, the judicial sources added.
Ramadan, a married father of four whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement in late 2017.
He has denied charges he raped a disabled woman in 2009 and a feminist activist in 2012.
He was taken into custody in February 2018 and held for nine months before being granted bail.
Authorities in Switzerland are also investigating him after receiving a rape complaint in that country.
His lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, refused to comment Sunday on the latest allegations against him in France.
The woman behind the latest complaint told police that Ramadan and a male assistant repeatedly raped her in Ramadan’s room at the Sofitel hotel in Lyon.
She described the alleged attack as being of “untold violence” and claimed that when she threatened to report them to the police Ramadan replied: “You don’t know how powerful I am.”
She also claimed that Ramadan had contacted her via the Messenger app in January, two months after his release from jail, saying that he wanted to make her an “offer” of a “professional nature,” without giving details.