The Story of a Nicaraguan Detained in a Migrant Caravan

Captured Nicaraguans suffered imprisonment and mistreatment. Migrants of other nationalities were also beaten and received electric shocks.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The hope of arriving “healthy” to US territory united them. On Thursday afternoon, January 20, a group of more than 200 Nicaraguans seeking to fulfill the “American dream,” along with hundreds of migrants of other nationalities, gathered and left together from Tapachula, Mexico, en route for the United States border. But, after having traveled about 30 kilometers, they were “dispersed” by Mexican immigration authorities.

Pushes, blows, electric shocks and insults were part of the mistreatment suffered by the hundreds of detained migrants. “Jose,” 34 years old, is one of the Nicaraguans who was detained during the operation and spent five days incarcerated in an immigration detention center. The young man told Confidencial that the dispersion of the group was “violent” and witnessed how many “were beaten or given electric shocks.”

“We left Tapachula at about five o’clock on Thursday afternoon, heading for Mexico City after not getting a response from the Mexican authorities, following our plan to reach the United States border. However, after travelling about 30 kilometers, we were nearly 2,000 migrants on the move, because others joined us along the way. We then saw at least 20 trucks of immigration agents and the Mexican Army coming. We tried to run, we separated, but many of us were detained. Some were dragged, beaten and several received electric shocks,” he related.

He emphasized that he was not beaten or shocked because he “voluntarily gave himself up” along with other people who were traveling with minors. He explained that, once they were placed in several buses, they were transferred -in the early hours of January 21-, to the migrant detention center known as Siglo XXI, located a few kilometers from the center of Tapachula.

Mexico’s National Institute for Migrants (INM) reported the dispersion of the caravan, stating that it was made up of more than 300 people. They assured that “with respect for human rights, they were transferred in buses to migration centers in the state,” where their situation would be reviewed.

Five days imprisoned

Jose explained that while in the Siglo XXI detention center all the detained migrants were registered with their personal data and stripped of all their belongings.

“They asked for my documents, began to search us and put us in cells where there were about 70 people,” he explained.

He denounces that all his belongings: clothes, personal hygiene utensils, medicines, and money, with the exception of his cell phone, were “stolen or thrown” in the trash by the immigration authorities.

He emphasizes that, although they were not beaten or interrogated constantly, the prison environment was hostile: food “was not so good and they gave us very little,” they were subjected to overcrowding, where not everyone had space to sleep on mats or pallets, and many “got sick” and were not properly cared for.

“Jose” assures that in those five days of detention, during the 12 hours of sunlight they were allowed, he was able to verify that close to 1,000 Nicaraguans were in this immigration detention center.

Detention centers “do not comply with basic conditions”

“Francisco,” a defender of migrants’ rights in Mexico who asked for his identity to be protected, confirmed, in an interview with Confidencial, that the migrant detention centers, such as the one where the migrants of the caravan that departed from Tapachula were taken, “have totally hostile conditions, that is, they do not have the basic conditions necessary for the people who are detained and in most cases they are full, which in these times is a serious risk because of the coronavirus.”

He explains that in the case of Nicaraguans who are detained without papers in Mexico, “They do not have direct deportation, they are not sent from Mexico to Nicaragua, but they are detained between five and twenty days, and then are released with a sheet of paper where they are told that they could remain for 15 or 20 days in Mexican territory and in that time, they can see how they leave the country.”

The migrant defender mentioned another option for some Nicaraguans. For any migrant who enters Mexico without papers, if they have the evidence to demonstrate that they are persecuted and cannot return to their countries, they can contact the National Commission for Migrants (COMAR) to request a humanitarian visa or refuge.

He explained that Mexico has three main conditions to provide refuge: social violence, which has to do mainly with gangs or armed groups in countries, especially in the Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala & El Salvador); gender violence; and political violence.

Fifteen days to leave Mexico

“Jose” confirms that he and 149 other Nicaraguans were released with a document in which they are given 15 days to leave Mexico, although they explained to him that he can apply for a humanitarian visa or refuge in case he has all the necessary evidence to prove that he is persecuted in Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan has been fleeing the repression of Daniel Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua since 2018, after he participated in the protests that began in April of that year. He explains that he was first exiled in Costa Rica and decided to seek a third country due to the constant threats he continued to receive in Costa Rican territory from people who identified themselves as close to the Ortega regime.

He said that, after being released from the immigration center on January 26, he decided to apply for refuge in Mexico, while possibilities improve to continue his exile in the United States.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.



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