Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments made by the Baja California state attorney general during a news conference on Dec. 1, 2022.
TIJUANA (Border Report) — A migrant shelter in Tijuana has shut its doors as members of criminal organizations try to extort money from migrants, an activist south of the border said.
Activist Hugo Castro said people were going to the Migrant Embassy shelter at night demanding money from the migrants.
“There’s been cases where some have been beaten severely,” Castro said. “Some have left as a way to save their lives, these have been victims of extortion whose human rights have been violated.”
Migrants like Jose from El Salvador say the shelter was like a haven that no longer exists.
“It was the least expensive yet most comfortable shelter in Tijuana,” said Jose in Spanish. “The situation just got difficult.”
According to Jose, cartel members and police officers began coming around in October demanding money.
“You had to be out by 6:30 in the morning and out of the area otherwise police officers would come by and pick you up and take you to the police station demanding money.”
Jose told Border Report he has been the victim of beatings and assaults and doesn’t know what to do, and sadly, has even contemplated suicide.
“I want to go into the ocean and drown,” he said as he broke down in tears.
The shelter where Jose and other migrants were staying is located close to the beach near the international barrier between Mexico and the United States.
It’s an area where many migrants attempt to cross the border illegally.
Esperanza Lozano, director of the shelter, said the 40 migrants staying in the facility were being charged $200 by a cartel and police officers to be allowed to remain in the area and for “permission to cross the border.”
She also said the shelter has filed 17 complaints against police officers that have gone ignored by state prosecutors.
“It’s not this way,” said Ricardo Carpio, Baja California’s Attorney General.
During a Thursday morning news conference, Carpio said claims made by the shelter and migrants were unfounded.
He did say they will continue looking into the allegations.
The people who run the Migrant Embassy shelter said they hope to reopen, but only if the safety of their personnel and the migrants can be assured, something they doubt will happen.
On Tuesday, a group of armed men broke down the door of a church-run migrant shelter in Juarez, Mexico, and tried to abduct asylum-seekers sheltered there.