Amnesty International urged on Tuesday the Mexican and U.S. governments to stop “demonizing” the caravan of asylum seekers and to respect their right to ask for asylum, as around 100 Central American migrants arrived Tuesday at the US-Mexican border, where many plan to seek asylum in the United States.
“Asking for asylum is not a crime, not in the United States, nor in any other country,” said the head of the rights group's branch for America, Erika Guevara Rosas, in a communique.
The U.S. efforts to portray asylum-seekers as “criminals” consist in “cynical lies that sound shallow,” she added. “Threatening with indefinite detention, trials and deportation those who seek asylum is a cruel effort to stigmatize, terrorize and expel traumatized people.”
Two busloads of migrants arrived in the border city of Mexicali — which sits opposite Calexico, California — and paused for a rest stop before continuing west towards Tijuana. The migrants are part of a caravan of more than 1,000 people that set out from Mexico's southern border on March 25.
Media coverage of the US-bound caravan triggered a flurry of furious tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump, who ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border and called on Mexico to stop the migrants. As the issue exploded into a diplomatic row, organizers of the caravan quietly broke it up.
The caravan is a yearly event held since 2010 around Easter. Activists say its main goal is to raise awareness of the perils migrants face, not cross the border.
Ties between the United States and Mexico have been strained since Trump won the presidency in 2016 on the back of a campaign heavy on anti-Mexican rhetoric and promises to build a wall on the two countries' border and make Mexico pay for it.