By Jose Torres
TAPACHULA -Hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and the Caribbean departed the southern Mexican city of Tapachula en masse on Saturday in a caravan headed to the Mexican capital, where they hoped to seek expedited asylum proceedings.
The group of approximately 500 people included families with young children from Haiti, Cuba, Central America, and Colombia, according to a Reuters witness.
The caravan comes after days of protests by migrants in Tapachula, who have been demanding their cases be expedited so they could leave the southern state and relocate to other parts of Mexico or head to the U.S. border without risking deportation, according to local news reports.
“We can’t survive in Tapachula,” said Colombian migrant Carlos Correa, 31, who said he joined the caravan on Saturday after waiting for three months without receiving a response to his asylum application.
“We are asking the government of Mexico to please create a humanitarian corridor for us so we can travel to the (U.S.)border,” he said.
Under Mexican law, migrants must remain in the state where they sought asylum until their cases are resolved, a process that can take months or years.
Both Mexico and the United States have witnessed high levels of migration this year, particularly from Central America, where violence, poverty, and a hunger crisis have driven hundreds of thousands to flee.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have conducted more than 1.2 million arrests or expulsions of migrants crossing the U.S. border since October.
Mexico is facing mounting pressure from Washington to take steps to curtail U.S.-bound immigration.
In recent weeks, the Mexican government has sent thousands of migrants to southern Mexico by plane, where they are transported by bus to the Guatemalan border.