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Migrants in Mexico square off against national guard

TAPACHULA, MEXICO (AP) – Dozens of migrants from Haiti, Cuba and African nations threw stones and sticks at Mexican National Guard troops and immigration agents on Tuesday in the southern city of Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala.

The confrontation came amid months of complaints by migrants that processing claims for refuge, asylum or humanitarian visas was taking too long.

The National Immigration Institute said in a statement that the migrants involved in Tuesday’s protest blocked entrances to an immigration office and insisted they be attended to, ahead of people who already had appointments.

A confrontation erupted when officers tried to force them to leave. About 100 migrants burned tyres and trash and blocked a nearby road for several hours. The conflict could increase tensions between migrants and local residents.

Migrants have been complaining for months that the process of gaining temporary legal status was too slow. Migrants have long said there isn’t sufficient work or housing for the thousands who wait for months in Tapachula for some resolution of their status.

Many incur debts to migrate and anything that delays them in getting paying work stresses their situation as they still have to pay rent and buy food.

Mexico has been overwhelmed with asylum requests in recent years. Some migrants see remaining in Mexico as a viable option, while others see it just as a way to get papers that allow them to transit Mexico freely and make their way to the United States (US) border.

A makeshift migrant camp stands near El Chaparral pedestrian border bridge in Tijuana, Mexico. PHOTO: AP