Mexico: Police fail to respond to racist attacks

Issue 
Carlitos, 4-year-old from Honduras, poses by his native Honduras on the map painted on the wall of Casa Tochan, Mexico City. Photo credit: Emma Buckhout.

Migrants and refugees staying in a refuge in Mexico City have been subjected to verbal and physical attacks recently.

On April 12, a neighbour living near the Casa Tochan refuge tried to steal electric tools from it. When one of the refugees tried to talk to the neighbour and stop him, the neighbour responded violently.

Once volunteers and migrants removed the man from the building, he continued to beat on the door and throw objects at the migrants from his rooftop, yelling threats. A few hours later, the man climbed over a dividing wall and stole the tools. This was all captured on camera.

Later, while migrants were carrying water across the road to the refuge, the man tried to stab three of them, ripping clothing in one case but not managing to cause serious injury.

When migrants said they would call the police, a group of youth in the street protected the attacker and threatened to murder everyone in the refuge.

Other neighbours who “don’t want to be around migrants” — according to Casa Tochan coordinator Gabriela Hernandez — have cut off the refuge’s access to water and electricity. For the past week, migrants have had to fill buckets of water from a nearby shop tap and carry those buckets up a steep staircase.

As a volunteer with Casa Tochan for the past few years, I can attest that these are not isolated incidents. Apart from the kidnappings, extortion from authorities, and general abuse that the migrants often face when travelling through Mexico from Central America, when they stay here in Mexico City they have also been physically attacked in the streets and told to “go back to where you came from”.

They tend to face discrimination and bureaucratic obstacles when trying to do things like open bank accounts or request a visa.

The police refuse to do anything about the problems. On one occasion I witnessed a neighbour throwing glass at the migrants from his house. I called the police but they never turned up. When we stopped a police patrol car that happened to go past, the police said they could not enter the house unless the aggressor was on our property.

When police finally did arrive three hours later, after many phone calls, they would not enter the refuge nor do anything. Hernandez spent 12 hours at the local police station waiting to file a report while the police on duty slept.

“The judicial service is made so that it doesn’t work and to treat citizens badly so that nothing ever changes,” a statement from Casa Tochan read.