In Mexico, migrants between two walls

By Frédéric Saliba

Posted yesterday at 12h55, updated yesterday at 13h37

Mputu has an empty look; drops of sweat bead on his forehead. This 35-year-old Congolese may be immune to the damp heat of southern Mexico, he is not resistant to frustration. "I crossed twelve countries, says he. I risked my life, smugglers stole the little I had. All this to find me in this impasse! " Around him, dozens of tents stand in front of the migratory detention center of Tapachula, a Mexican city backed by the Guatemalan border.

Like Mputu, nearly 3,000 Africans are stranded in this unattractive agglomeration. The reception policy for illegal immigrants has been hardened by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often referred to by the acronym AMLO, since the agreement signed on June 7 between Mexico City and Washington. This strategic shift, under the threat of his US counterpart Donald Trump, turned Tapachula into a dead end.

"There is no sanitation or access to running water, Mputu plague. We are not given anything. The toilet is there, behind the trees, "Mputu, Congolese blocked at the detention center of Tapachula

Flues of wood fires float on this improvised camp, where children play at the edge of a busy road. It's been about five months since hundreds of Congolese, Cameroonians and Angolans live there. Under a plastic tarpaulin, a group of women in colorful clothes cook foutou, dumplings whose corn flour has replaced the traditional cassava of West Africa. Next door, a man in underpants enjoys a shower to wash.

"There are no sanitary facilities or access to running water, Mputu plague. We are not given anything. The toilet is there, behind the trees. " An electrician by profession, he seems hypnotized by the thick metal portal of Mexico's largest detention center: its high walls and its mirador give the building the air of a prison. "I was locked up for eight days," says Mputu, who had himself surrendered to the local police, hoping to get a pass. He quickly disillusioned: "Before, the Mexican government gave transit visas. Not anymore. I only received a residence permit, valid only in southern Mexico. "

"Taken hostage by Trump"

Mputu contains his anger, but some of his fellow galleys are no longer capable of it. They throw stones at the twenty or so policemen who guard the center and burn tires. Shield in hand and helmet screwed on the head, the agents charge. Summary of these clashes: five light wounded, including two policemen. "It's unbearable to be hijacked by Trump," a forty-year-old Angolan with a stone in his hand. After tough negotiations, the Mexican government escaped customs duties that had threatened the White House tenant. In return, AMLO agreed to curb the arrival of illegal immigrants in Mexico. Since then, tens of thousands of migrants are stuck in the south of the country.

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