MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador brushed away concerns on Friday about the living conditions of thousands of asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico under a U.S. program that President Joe Biden is scrambling to unravel.
Humanitarian organizations have documented cases of attacks, extortion, kidnapping, and sexual violence against those in the program. Most are from Central America and many live in shelters and cramped apartments in dangerous border towns or in a squalid tent city in Mexico’s far northeast.
Lopez Obrador disputed the accounts, saying he had “other data” and that his government would release a report on the migrants next week.
“We have been taking care of the migrants and we have been careful that their human rights are not affected,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference.
“…It’s nothing like it was before, when they were kidnapped and disappeared. We have been attentive and we have protected them.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under Biden’s new administration, said on Wednesday it would end all new enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which since 2019 has forced more than 65,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings, sometimes for months or even years.
The announcement did not specify what will happen to the tens of thousands currently waiting in Mexico under the program, saying only that they “should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials.”
(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener; editing by John Stonestreet)