TIJUANA (Border Report) — Tijuana police detained 13 migrants from the small Muslim nation of Mauritania when officers raided a hotel earlier this week.
Migrants from this Northwest African country, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, have rarely, if ever, been encountered in Tijuana, according to migrant advocates.
Initially, police said officers became suspicious when they saw a few men scatter and run into the property of the Hotel Jacuzzys.
The men were taken into custody, and their booking photos were released to the media.
After translators were called in, it was determined that the men were migrants who were being forced to stay at the hotel by a smuggling organization.
“It was a case of a rescue,” said Soraya Vazquez, a human rights activist in Tijuana.
Vazquez says the police department did not handle the situation properly.
She also stated the migrants from Mauritania are an example of asylum-seekers who often fall prey to smugglers.
“There are various hotels used by smugglers in Tijuana as stash houses,” said Vazquez, adding that migrants are often forced to stay in these hotels until they can secure payment for their transport into the U.S.
“This is a global problem, it shows there are no adequate or safe ways for people fleeing a conflict or persecution to come to Mexico and the United States, they have to depend on organized crime.”
The 13 Mauritanian nationals have been turned over to the National Institute of Migration in Tijuana and are being detained because they have yet to prove they entered Mexico legally.
“These groups of migrants are considered vulnerable because of the language barrier and other factors including religious persecution,” Vazquez said.
Tijuana Municipal Police has not made any comments about the migrants or the operation to detain them.