Migrants, mostly from Haiti, burst into an asylum office in southern Mexico on Monday, demanding papers.
Throngs of migrants knocked over metal barricades and rushed into the office in the city of Tapachula, pushing past National Guard officers and police stationed at the office. Some of the migrants were trampled by their colleagues in the rush.
Authorities later convinced many to leave, and no injuries were reported.
The tension comes as asylum claims in Mexico have skyrocketed, reaching over 100,000 so far this year.
Crowds of frustrated migrants, including many from Cuba and Honduras, say they have had to wait for weeks in some cases for an appointment at the office in Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala.
At the office, run by the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, migrants can file claims for asylum in Mexico. Most, however, intend to use the papers to travel more safely and easily to the U.S. border.
“It’s very complicated, there are too many people here, the Haitians get desperate, they knock over the barricades and that only makes the process slower,” said Cuban migrant Miguel Argoten.
Argoten said he had been waiting a week in Tapachula to start the asylum application process. The office has been getting about 2,000 appointment requests per day recently.
Mexico is on track to receive more asylum applications this year than ever before as the flow of migrants threatens to overwhelm governments of several Latin American countries along the migratory route.
Andrés Ramírez Silva, the director of Mexico’s refugee agency, said last week that the number of asylum applications his agency receives this year could reach 150,000, well above the 129,000 record set in 2021.
“Effectively we have a pace that is very above what we have in our record year that was 2021,” Ramírez Silva said. If that pace continues he predicted they could reach 150,000 by year’s end. Through August they already had 100,000 — 25% above the same period in 2021 — more than half at Mexico’s shared border with Guatemala.
Some migrants got unruly during the wait last week and pushed their way into the agency’s offices, which led to the deployment of National Guard officers, who had little luck in keeping order.
Ramírez Silva said Cubans, Haitians and Hondurans have made up about 80% of the asylum applications at the Tapachula office. He said his agency had asked the federal government for more resources to expand its capacity.