TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – A handful of thousands of Central American migrants encamped on the US-Mexico border waiting to plead their asylum case in the United States launched a hunger strike on Thursday to protest the Mexican police being blocking.
A migrant, part of a caravan of thousands of people from Central America trying to reach the United States, pushes another migrant into a wheelbarrow to a temporary shelter during heavy rains in Tijuana, Mexico, on November 29, 2018 REUTERS / Alkis Konstantinidis
Members of the 6,000-person caravan, mostly migrants from Honduras, have slept in the open, on cold floors or on mats in an overcrowded shelter since they arrived in the city of Tijuana across the border from San Diego, California, three weeks ago.
Last Thursday, Mexican immigration authorities began to transport some of the bus migrants to a new shelter to help reduce tension.
Under the harsh immigration policies introduced by President Donald Trump's administration, US border officials say they may have to stay in Mexico for months before they can petition the authorities.
US border control and customs officers fired tear gas bombs in Mexico to dozens of migrants who tried to rush to the border fence on Sunday.
On Thursday, as a steady and partially flooded rain fell the sports complex that served as the main shelter, the Mexican police stopped more than a dozen migrants from the caravan approaching the nearby El Chaparral border.
"What the police is doing is unjust, the truth is that we are fighting for our rights," said one of the migrants, Gerson Madrid, a 22-year-old Honduran who began the journey to the United States at the beginning of October to better provide for a young daughter who has left.
Madrid said the group was starting a three-day hunger strike to draw attention to the stalemate.
"Why is the police treating us like this if we do not cause them or the Mexican people some trouble?" He said.
Officials from the Mexico Human Rights Commission said the new facility opened on Thursday is larger than the sports complex, which can handle only about 2,000 people, and will ensure that migrants are not forced to sleep outside.
Overcrowding with cooler temperatures and rain have already contributed to spread the disease among migrants, including flu-like illnesses, lice and chickenpox, according to city officials who refused to be named because they were not allowed to talk to the average.
Despite the conditions, many caravan migrants seemed determined to wait as long as necessary, with over 600 job permits in Mexico at the beginning of this week, according to Mexican officials.
Trump has threatened to "permanently" close the Mexican-US border if Mexico does not deport those gathered in Tijuana.
The Government of Mexico rejected, claiming that migrants have the right to seek asylum from US officials. British agencies said that asylum seekers fleeing violence or persecution this week have the right to apply for refuge.
Reporting by Christine Murray; Written by David Alire Garcia; Edit by Sonya Hepinstall