TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico – A group of 11 migrants, the majority of them Cubans, are on a hunger strike at a prison in southern Mexico to demand their release, a human rights group said.
The hunger strikers – nine Cubans, a Guatemalan and a Dominican – started the protest on May 4 because they were transferred to the prison in Tapachula, a city in Chiapas state, after being accused of damaging property during a riot at the immigration center where they were being held.
The riot happened on May 4, when National Migration Institute, or INM, agents “entered the 20th Century Immigration Station installations to transfer the Cubans to Mexico City,” the Fray Matias de Cordova y Ordoñez Human Rights Center said.
Some of the migrants protested the transfer and a riot started, allowing nine people to escape amid the confusion.
Six of the migrants were captured a few minutes later and hauled before prosecutors along with seven others.
The migrants were sent to Tapachula after the INM accused them of damaging property, rioting and resisting arrest, but some of the charges were later dropped.
Eleven of the 13 migrants refused to eat in an effort to win their release and prison officials are monitoring their “blood pressure every two hours,” the human rights group said.
The rioters were ordered to pay a fine to cover the damage they did, the INM chief in Chiapas, Mercedes Gomez Mont, told Efe on Tuesday, adding that she did not know the amount levied against them.
The migrants will be turned over to the INM as soon as they pay their fines and the agency will continue processing their cases, Gomez Mont said.
The migrants will undergo medical examinations as soon as they are returned to the INM’s custody, Gomez Mont said.
President Felipe Calderon signed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting migrants’ rights in Mexico.
An estimated 300,000 Central Americans and 400,000 Mexicans undertake the dangerours journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States.
Central American migrants follow a long route that takes them into Chiapas, which is on the border with Guatemala, walking part of the way or riding aboard freight trains, buses and cargo trucks.
The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.
The flow of migrants has increased markedly in the northern and northeastern parts of Mexico since U.S. officials increased security along the border in the northwestern part of the country.
Last month, the National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, Mexico’s equivalent of an ombudsman’s office, identified 71 cities in 16 of the country’s 32 states that are considered dangerous for Mexican and foreign migrants headed to the United States.
“Kidnappings, abuse, extortion, robberies and sexual attacks on migrants have been documented” in the 71 cities, the CNDH said in a statement.
About 20,000 Central Americans were kidnapped by organized crime groups, which extorted money from them or forced them to join their gangs, the CNDH said in a report released last year. EFE