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Cubans stranded in Tapachula: Situation at the Mexican border

Oct 31 , 2023

In Tapachula, a city in the Mexican state of Chiapas, thousands of Cubans are stuck in migration limbo. These people have made their way to the United States looking for better opportunities and freedoms, but face many difficulties on their journey.

The city bordering Guatemala lies on the route taken by Cuban migrants, a route which begins in countries such as Nicaragua, to which Cubans can travel without a visa, and finally ends (for those who are lucky enough to arrive alive or not be deported on the way) in the United States.

The Cuban migrants in Tapachula continuously faked their geographical location in Tapachula by falsely appearing to be in central/northern Mexico using VPN to apply for an appointment using the CBP One app. This location is a mandatory requirement to get an appointment. At the time of travel, they would ask for a laissez-passer to travel legally to the border with the United States with no risk.

Recently, the authorities of the Mexican National Migration Institute (INM) stopped issuing laissez-passers to migrants, given the fraud in which they incurred when requesting the appointment.

Where do the Mexican and US governments stand?

The Mexican government has reinforced security along the southern border to prevent illegal entry of Cuban and other migrants. Migration controls have been increased and more officers have been deployed to curb the massive influx of people.

The US government is also taking steps to address the situation of Cuban migrants in Tapachula. First, the US government has tightened migration policies, making it more difficult for Cubans to access visas and asylum. This has created a bottleneck at the Mexican border, since many Cubans are stuck in Tapachula awaiting their turn to apply for asylum in the United States.

Given the difficult migration control situation in these countries, both agreed to deport migrants who are in border cities to their countries of origin. This also implies that the Mexican government undertakes operations to reduce the flow of migrants from the cities located closest to the United States.

On the other hand, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to introduce changes to the CBP One Advance Travel Authorisation, the new process requires a valid passport, a verifiable financial backing in the US and a face photograph taken using the CBP One app itself.

And the Cuban government’s position?

The Cuban government’s position is complicated. On the one hand, the Cuban government aims to protect the rights and welfare of its citizens, but on the other hand, it also tries to avoid mass emigration and the flight of skilled human resources. While Cuba has experienced some changes in migration policies in recent years, some restrictions on travelling and settling abroad still exist.

How do Cuban migrants cope with this situation?

In this context, Cuban migrants in Tapachula are facing a number of challenges. Many of them have left their homes and families looking for a better life, only to find themselves stuck in an uncertain situation. Some have started working in the gig economy to survive, while others have decided to remain in shelters or on the streets.

Besides economic challenges, Cuban migrants also face humanitarian risks. Human rights organisations have condemned the situation in the shelters and detention centres in Tapachula, highlighting the poor conditions, overcrowding and lack of proper medical care.

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