After weeks on the road, crossing mountains and jungles, risking assault and drowning, thousands of Haitian migrants hoping to reach the United States found themselves stranded in Mexico instead.
Many embarked on the journey encouraged by family and friends already living the American Dream – but who often failed to mention the dangers that lay ahead.
Tens of thousands of migrants, including many Haitians who previously lived in South America, are stranded in the town of Tapachula in southern Mexico, awaiting documents that would allow them to continue.
Those who are tired of waiting or short of money still try to cross Mexico, hoping not to be arrested by the authorities and deported to Guatemala.
But when they reach the border with the United States, they find themselves trapped again.
Thousands of migrants, many of them Haitians, are now crowded under a bridge in Texas after crossing the Rio Grande River, hoping to be allowed entry into the country.
Despite the difficulties, migrants continue to flow into southern Mexico from Guatemala.
– Fleeing the fallout from the earthquake –
Each night, Murat “Dodo” Tilus wakes up with excruciating pain in his arm, the result of a fall on a Colombian mountain on his way to the United States, where he hopes to join his brother.
He left Chile with his wife, daughter and two grandchildren on August 8, leaving a country that had welcomed him following the 2010 earthquake that killed 200,000 people in Haiti.
“My house collapsed (in the earthquake), my relatives died, then I decided with my wife to go to another country,” the 49-year-old electrician told AFP.
But the “Chilean dream” began to fade in 2018 when the government imposed measures making life more difficult for migrants.
These days in Chile, “it’s very difficult to get a work permit. Everything has become more expensive, so people want to leave to look for a better life,” he said.
He and his wife Rose Marie raised around $ 5,000 for the trip, leaving by bus.
After a month-long odyssey through 10 countries, they arrive in Tapachula.
Now they are sleeping in a room in a house they share with four other Haitian families, waiting for an appointment to process their asylum claim.
It is only thanks to the money sent by Tilus’ brother that they do not sleep on the streets like some migrants.
The Mexican Commission for Assistance to Refugees is grappling with a backlog of requests for documents.
So far this year, it has issued around 77,559 permits for migrants, compared to 70,400 for all of 2019.
Hundreds of migrants tried to cross Mexico on foot this month in caravans but were stranded by Mexican authorities.
“I want to continue (in the US) legally,” Tilus said.
– Perilous journey –
Judith Joseph fled Haiti to Chile in 2017 after the murder of one of her three children.
Despite illnesses such as diabetes and difficulty walking, the 43-year-old left on July 10 and arrived in Tapachula almost two months later with her two other children, Samuel and Cristelle.
The worst of the trip was crossing the Darien Gap, a jungle area between Colombia and Panama infested with armed gangs and drug traffickers.
They saw some migrants drown, while others lost their few possessions.
Life in Haiti, where her mother worked in a market, was just as difficult, said Samuel, 11.
“There were mice in the kitchen at night. During the day, there were always Haitian soldiers shooting outside the house, ”he said.
Now, they share a room with others on the outskirts of Tapachula, while they wait for refugee status to continue a journey that Samuel wishes he had never begun.
“I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay in Chile,” he said.
nc / dr / to / oho