Migrant shelter in southern Mexico denounces raid by armed individuals

By David Agren, Catholic Information Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) – A Catholic migrant shelter in southern Chiapas state said unidentified individuals forced their way into the premises – the latest act of intimidation against migrant advocates in the region .

A statement from a collective of human rights groups and the Casa Betania Santa Martha shelter said eight people claiming to be from the state prosecutor’s office – all armed, but without ID – arrived on the premises. places on the evening of October 12, requiring entry to verify the whereabouts of a missing child.

The gunmen entered after threatening staff, and several pointed their guns at a psychologist, forcing her to provide information from the shelter’s registry.

An unidentified migrant for security reasons was also threatened. The person’s phone was examined by the armed individuals. The armed individuals left after failing to find the alleged missing child, the statement said. Local police and civil protection officials also appeared at the scene, but did nothing.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Franciscan Sister Diana Muñoz, director of the shelter, said another group of 14 returned on October 15 dressed in municipal police uniforms – after the departure of the Franciscan sisters managing the refuge for the day. The men in uniform said they were responding to reports of raids at the shelter. The porter at the shelter, Sister Muñoz said, recognized four people from the previous armed incursion.

The unwelcome incursions marked the last hostilities against the Casa Betania Santa Martha refuge, a project of the Society of the Divine Word and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary; it serves tired migrants who often arrive on foot after having taken illegal routes from Guatemala.

“The migrant shelter is a stone in their shoe,” Sister Muñoz said of the officials threatening the shelter. “That’s what’s at the bottom of it.”

The incursions come as the US government responds to large numbers of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border and continues to pressure Mexico to slow the flow of migrants crossing its territory.

The Salto de Agua refuge, also in Chiapas, has already come under scrutiny from officials, including incursions in 2019.

In a 2019 interview, Sister Muñoz described the endemic human trafficking in the region. She said public officials and smugglers often went hand in hand as an economy emerged of providing migrants with services such as transport at exorbitant prices.

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