Migrants strain Tijuana resources as border camp toilets overflow
| CityLab.com – Facing deteriorating conditions in shelters, 6,000 Central American migrants and asylum seekers are stuck in Tijuana, and city leaders are getting frustrated.
“We are used to migration, but just not of this kind,” said Tijuana’s government secretary, Leopoldo Guerrero.
The problem is that the sheer number of migrants—Guerrero gives their number at 6,192, which is about twice the city’s federal prison population—has overwhelmed local officials, who say that Mexico’s federal government has failed to support their efforts to provide services.
Since the caravan departed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13, the migrants have received humanitarian aid from towns and cities along the route.
But those resources have become scarce in Tijuana, and the tension is palpable. Officials are increasingly exasperated; so are the migrants waiting their turn to apply for asylum in the United States.
While volunteers serve up warm food outside of the shelter, Mexican soldiers deployed by the federal government cook two meals a day, with provisions provided by the city.
Long lines are common; many migrants say there isn’t enough food to go around.
Inside the Benito Juarez sports complex, which initially housed migrants since their arrival, sanitary conditions were deplorable. Unlike Mexico City, which provided basic comforts like tents and blankets, in Tijuana many shelter residents slept on dirt and concrete floors for the first days.
By Thursday, the grounds of the sports complex had become large mud pools. Portable toilets overflowed, garbage heaps accumulated on the periphery of the shelter, and migrants had few options for bathing or other basic necessities. UNICEF said it was gravely concerned about the nutrition, education, and safety of the more than 1,000 migrant children living in the shelter.
Last week, city officials helped to transfer migrants to another facility, as fears grew that unsanitary conditions represented a growing public health threat. The new shelter, a former concert venue located 20 kilometers away in eastern Tijuana, is being run by the federal immigration agency, and it boasts better amenities, including toilets and showers.
One day before the city government began moving migrants to the new shelter, Mirna Contreras, 29, from Honduras, waited out the torrential rain inside her tent. Contreras has been here for two weeks; she says she sang in public to gather 400 pesos to purchase the tent. “I felt much better in Mexico City. I feel abandoned here,” she told CityLab.
“This is the worst shelter I have been in.” Battling a chronic cough, Contreras said the dirty and dangerous conditions were particularly distressing because “hunger, necessity, and violence brought many of us here.” Read more.