Migrants describe squalid Mexican detention centres

Mexico’s immigration centres are becoming increasingly squalid and overcrowded as authorities step up the detention of migrants headed for the United States.

MEXICO (REUTERS) - Migrants sleeping on floors, with little water and food. Children suffering from diarrhoea due to unsanitary conditions.

Mexico is cracking down on Central American migrants trying to reach the United States, and they are forcing many into increasingly overcrowded and squalid conditions inside immigration centres.

Reuters correspondent Delphine Schrank is near the Siglo XXI detention centre in Southern Mexico.

"Conditions for migrants apprehended by Mexican migration officials have been consistently terrible, according to at least half a dozen detainees who spoke with Reuters.

"This is since about April, when people seem to have been rounded up, pulled out of taxis, off buses, or in the streets anywhere here in Chiapas, southern Mexico, which is the state where most migrants cross into Mexico from Guatemala," said Schrank.

Their accounts were supported by two lawyers representing 26 other inmates, as well as the migration ombudsman at Mexico's National Human Rights Commission and reports from two migrant rights groups.

Mexico's National Immigration Institute, which runs Siglo XXI, did not respond to repeated requests for comment on conditions at the centre.

Guards at the gates of the centre declined to answer questions or to allow a Reuters reporter to speak with its director.


Mexico has increased detentions in response to US President Donald Trump threatening trade tariffs.

That has strained the country's underfunded network of centres, which already had a reputation for poor conditions.

"Reuters has had access to unpublished data from the government which shows that the number of detentions of migrants has surged in the past four months, at least tripled in the last month.

"Equally, the number of deportations has surged. Now, government officials don't class detentions as such. They say they're merely taking people in to regularise their status.

"But everyone we've talked to says they are not allowed to leave from detention facilities, and indeed are held weeks or months," said Schrank.

Asked about the extended detentions, an official with Mexico's National Immigration Institute, who asked not to be identified, said migrant cases were complex and needed to be analysed on an individual basis.

Thousands have passed this year through the gates of Siglo XXI. It's the largest migrant detention centre in Mexico.

Migrant rights groups said it has been at or near double its 970-person capacity for months.

The country's Human Rights Commission ombudsman told Reuters that some smaller centres among Mexico's 58 immigrant detention facilities were even more overcrowded than Siglo XXI, holding up to four times their capacity.