Caravan migrants stalled at Texas border eye other routes

The governor of the northern state of Coahuila described the migrants as “asylum seekers,” suggesting all had express intentions of surrendering to US authorities. (File/AP)
Updated 07 February 2019

Caravan migrants stalled at Texas border eye other routes

  • Around 1,700 caravan migrants want to avoid a potentially months-long wait for a chance to plead their case for asylum
  • Thousands of mostly Central American migrants have made the dangerous trek through Mexico to the US border since October

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico: Some Central American migrants seeking entry into the United States but stalled near a Texas crossing said on Wednesday they are considering moving to another part of the border, where they may have a better chance of lodging a speedy asylum claim.
Mulling their next move from the dusty Mexican town of Piedras Negras, just south of the Eagle Pass crossing on the US side, the latest group of around 1,700 caravan migrants want to avoid a potentially months-long wait for a chance to plead their case for asylum.
Many say they are also waiting for a so-called humanitarian visa from the Mexican government that could lead to local job opportunities, but are afraid of the area’s hyper-violent Zetas drug cartel that has targeted migrants in the past.
“We can’t stop here,” said Oscar Lopez, a 33-year-old Honduran traveling with his wife and two daughters.
He said that his family fled death threats from gangs back home. “If we don’t (cross) here, we’ll go to anther part of the border,” he said.
US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that 3,750 additional military troops would be sent to the US-Mexico border to support border agents and thwart what he described as “the tremendous onslaught” of US-bound migrants.
Asylum seekers have traditionally been granted the right to stay in the United States while their cases were decided by a US immigration judge, but a backlog of more than 800,000 cases means the process can take years.
Some 250 military personnel are being re-deployed from positions in Arizona to Eagle Pass “in response to migrant caravan activity currently approaching the Texas border,” the US Department of Defense announced on Wednesday.
The personnel includes military police, medical personnel and engineers.
Thousands of mostly Central American migrants have made the dangerous trek through Mexico to the US border since October, stoking Trump’s ire.
The Trump administration announced a policy on Dec. 20 that the United States will return non-Mexican migrants who cross the border back to Mexico while their asylum requests are processed.
“These migrants face many risks,” including organized crime, corrupt local police and hostility from local residents, said Alberto Xicotencatl, who runs a shelter in the Coahuila state capital of Saltillo, about 250 miles (400 km) south of Piedras Negras.
Earlier this week, Coahuila Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme said he would not permit the caravan migrants to cross his state, but he did not detail any specific measures.
Hundreds of migrants from the first caravan remain stuck in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, many waiting their turn to legally enter and formally request asylum in the United States.


Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

Updated 22 August 2019

Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

  • “The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The mayor of Italy’s Lampedusa island on Thursday denounced the collapsing government for its failure to deal with migrant rescue boats, as a ship carrying 356 people remained stranded in the Mediterranean.
Mayor Salvatore Martello said the reception center on the tiny isle was already over capacity and would struggle to house migrants currently stuck aboard the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking.
The vessel, run by charities Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, has sought a port for almost two weeks after rescuing four boats of migrants off the Libyan coast between 9 and 12 August.
“It would be difficult because the reception center is saturated,” Martello told AFP.
“The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”
Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing poverty and conflict.
Thousands have attempted to make the unsafe crossing from Libya in a bid to reach Europe this year, despite efforts to deter them.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been accused of demonizing migrants and leaving them to drown in the sea.
He has repeatedly insisted that rescued migrants can only land in Italy if other EU countries take them in.
Italy’s president on Thursday was holding a second day of talks after the disintegration of the anti-immigrant coalition government, which broke down after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.
The plight of the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, which was denied entry by both Italy and Malta, is the latest in a string of migrant boat standoffs with Italian authorities.
The Open Arms rescue ship was allowed to land in Lampedusa on Wednesday, with 83 migrants disembarking, after Italian justice ordered they be brought ashore.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty in waters off Libya.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but all minors and some suffering health problems had already disembarked.
A European deal to redistribute them has yet to be implemented.