ZANATEPEC, Mexico (AP) — A group of mainly Central American migrants attempting to walk across southern Mexico has dwindled to less than a thousand, authorities said Wednesday.
Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said it had granted humanitarian visas to about 800 migrants who were once part of the group, mainly women with children of others considered at risk.
The institute said fewer than a thousand migrants continued with the group, which is now in the southern state of Oaxaca. The migrants once numbered as many as 4,000.
But since they set out from the city of Tapachula on Oct. 23, the group has managed to make it only about 190 miles (310 kilometers).
The group’s leader, immigration activist Irineo Mujica, denied the caravan was breaking up, and instead said he was organizing a second group to walk out of Tapachula on Nov. 18, to join up with the first group and then head toward the U.S. border
Mujica said the first group has been pursued and harassed by Mexican government officials. A video of him addressing the group Wednesday showed what appeared to be only a couple of hundred people.
A group of migrants pelted officers of Mexico’s National Guard with a hail of rocks last week, injuring five of the officers.
The Mexican government has been attempting to discourage the march, saying the poor conditions and extreme heat are putting the migrants’ lives at risk. The National Immigration Institute said six cases of the tropical fever dengue had been detected among members of the migrant march.
The migrants set out from the city of Tapachula, near the Guatemalan border, on foot. They claimed that Mexican immigration authorities were taking too long to process visa requests and were using Tapachula as a holding point to prevent migrants from going north.
Much larger caravans crossed Mexico in 2018 and 2019, but those migrants never tried to walk the whole distance. They usually caught rides aboard passing trucks.
But Mexico has told truckers not to pick up migrants, saying they could face charges of migrant trafficking.