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Area Nonprofits Readying to Help Migrant Caravan Subhead: It is expected its arrival to Celaya this week

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APOYO A MIGRANTES

 

By Karla Ortiz

APOYO A MIGRANTES

Despite some rhetoric out there to the contrary, Central American migrants do not flee their country simply because they want to change their residence, says Ignacio Martínez, director of the ABBA safehouse and temporary hostel in Celaya, which gives traveling migrants a short-term place to stay and some basic supplies to take with them on the rest of their journey.

“We have to be informed. One way to help our migrant brothers is to be informed about their context and what they live day to day,” says Martínez.

In Mexico, Hundreds of organizations, schools, and institutions are on the move to support Central American migrants who have recently embarked on the caravan journey northward making news. The caravan of migrants, mainly Hondurans who have been travelling for approximately three weeks from Mexico’s southern border northward toward México City—have left behind violence and corruption in their homelands.

This phenomenon is considered by many to be historic: never in recent memory has there been such a well-organized group of migrants.

“Many things are said on the Internet about who organized their departure. Some say it was Maduro, the president of Venezuela, while others consider it a scheme by the United States,” said Martínez. “The reality is that these families are fleeing due to three factors: the first is violence perpetrated by criminal gangs like Los Maras, La MS, and La 18,” said Martínez. These criminal groups threaten Honduran families and recruit their children, he said. They charge a “rent” for every business the victims have and call it a “war tax,” Martínez added, saying these gangs kill family members in retaliation for noncooperation.

The second factor is extreme poverty: apart from paying taxes to the government, migrants have been forced to pay extortion money to criminal gangs, leaving them without money to live on. The third factor is that Honduras, being a country plagued with violence for years, does not guarantee the human rights of its population. “The Honduran people have had enough of all this, which is why there is this migrant caravan phenomenon,” said Martínez.

As these migrants pass through México, Mexico faces a stress for supporting them because when these people arrive, where they come from, and how many are arriving is unclear. In addition, there has been a recent decrease in the number of migrants returning to their home country. Some have chosen to stay on in small towns in México to work.

ABBA, a helping hand

Currently the ABBA shelter receives between 500 and 600 migrants per month. They are able to do this because some migrants stay only one night or even only a few hours to rest. Their requests are few and humble. Some have even told Martínez that they would be satisfied with a safe roof to sleep on.

ABBA is preparing to receive the migrant caravan. It is collecting donations and calling in favors from other organizations, as well as training people to volunteer in its registry and its kitchen.

“We could receive up to 300 people to eat and sleep here. In the case of receiving that many, we would seek the support of the Celaya Red Cross, Las Damas Voluntarias, and the Lions Club. ABBA’s approach is to give them back that dignity that they have lost so much of day after day on their journey,” he explained.

How to help

In the three years since it has been serving this community, ABBA has never received any government support and has survived thanks to the support of citizens and nonprofit organizations in both Celaya and San Miguel de Allende. One such organization is Caminamos Juntos, a San Miguel NGO that collects monetary and in-kind donations throughout the year for refugees. Currently, it is soliciting in-kind donations like canned tuna and vegetables, powdered milk, baby diapers, acetaminophen, jackets, blankets, shoes and socks, thick clothes in good condition, bottled water, personal hygiene items, backpacks, and even mattresses, which give the migrants more places to sleep at the shelter. Such in-kind donations can be dropped off at Caminamos Juntos’s offices at Calzada de la Estación 24, but call 415 169 0030 before coming. In-kind donations can also be brought directly to ABBA’s shelter in Celaya, located at Eufemio Zapata 216, colonia Emiliano Zapata.

Another way to help is by sharing information through social networks (or talking to your friends) about migrants, their experiences, and the violence they often suffer. “We can even come to talk with them,” Martínez said. “Migrants come here very stressed, and the last thing they need are more problems. What we want to do is make them feel welcomed by Mexicans so that they don’t feel fear and so that they feel at home. Let’s be a little more human and less territorial. We are one race. Borders are created by men. Let us put ourselves in their shoes.

“Today it is our brothers’ turn, and I hope it is never ours,” Martínez added, “but I am sure that if we found ourselves in their situation, we would also find people of good will who would reach out to us.”

For more information about volunteering, visit the ABBA CCIAPM Facebook page or the Caminamos Juntos website at www.cjsma.org.

 

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