Migrants in Tijuana, Mexico faced another eviction at a shelter that once housed thousands on Monday, January 28. This time, it was uncertain where many would go next.
El Barretal, a facility that was once a night club, is located approximately 10 miles south-east of the San Ysidro border port of entry in Tijuana’s neighborhood of Mariano Matamoros. The space became open to asylum seekers after those being sheltered at the Benito Juarez Sports Complex were evicted in early December of 2018. This latest eviction at El Barretal occurred without a new shelter lined-up for asylum seekers to head towards, along with a short notice.
Two days prior to the eviction, Mari Elisa was comfortably sitting outside of her tent on the concrete grounds inside El Barretal. She left Honduras on October 13 of last year with her four daughters to find a better life in the United States. “There’s no work [in Honduras]… And for that we came [here] for a better life for my daughters because they deserve to study,” said Mari. “We are okay here, thank god.”
On the day of the eviction, Mari Elisa had no time to talk. She was one of dozens of migrants on the street in front of the evicted shelter who were busy gathering their belongings in big black garbage bags while figuring out where to go to next.
Mexican municipal police officers stood along the metal gates, guarding the entrance, as they watched the evicted migrants wait along the dirt path in front of the facility. Grupos Beta workers, an agency of the National Institute of Migration (INM) of Mexico, was also present at the eviction, as they were the entity largely in charge of the shelter.
The reasoning behind this eviction is currently uncertain, although many have their own theories. Freddy Gomez, a migrant from Honduras, was one of many waiting outside with his belongings. He said even before the official day of the eviction, many people had left the shelter. “I have the impression… that [Grupos Beta] don’t want the people there and that’s why they’re making everyone leave,” said Gomez.
Clad in yellow vests, a crew from Amnesty International approached the facility in the middle of the eviction. Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, stated the non-governmental organization had scheduled a visit with the Mexican government to visit El Barretal. “We wanted to see what the conditions were for the asylum seekers who are living here. What we did not know is that the government decided to close the camp today,” said Huang. “The government announced its intentions to close this camp a while ago. It’s not entirely clear why to us, it was one of the things we wanted to ask about.”
According to Huang, Amnesty International has had a consistent presence in Tijuana over the past few months, with researchers monitoring the conditions of shelters and asylum seekers in general. “We are very concerned about the conditions under which asylum seekers are being forced to live… So, our job is to document where we see both the risks but also human rights violations, where governments are not doing what they’re obligated to do to protect people,” said Huang. “And then we bring those concerns directly to governments and advocate that they change their practice, their policies.” It is currently unclear if the organization observed any human rights violations on the day of the eviction at El Barretal.
A new centralized shelter for asylum seekers has not opened up yet in Tijuana, leaving asylum seekers scattered around Tijuana at various churches and smaller temporary shelters.