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Bro. Joachim Mnich, SVD, works in the province of MEX. In an interview with a local radio station he shared about the work of confreres with migrants in Salto de Agua, Chiapas, in the south of Mexico.

A major part of the ministry of the SVD is to help out Central American people who left their countries in search of a better life in the USA. They are “migrants in transit” on their way to the north.

According to Bro. Joachim migration has increased significantly in recent years, even in Latin America. Because of the new American immigration policy, many people from Central American countries that are on their way to the United States get stranded in Mexico.

Eighty percent of these stranded migrants come from Honduras, a country with a huge number of gangs and much corruption. The others come from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Cuba.  In these countries, too, there is corruption and the economic situation is extremely bad. On freight trains they travel north. One of these railways runs directly through Salto de Agua. There is also a lot of corruption and crime in Mexico. It is therefore not uncommon for the trains to be attacked or sometimes the migrants fall off from the train wagons and they find themselves in Salto de Agua. Heading north, a dream that pushes to the limits.

Those that head north are mostly men, both adults and adolescents. Salto de Agua is just a transit station for these migrants. Most of them continue on the freight trains towards the border. Some even walk. Even though the percentage of those who make it to the United States is only 10% they pursue their dreams pushing themselves to the limits.

There are still 3,000 kilometers to go from Salto de Agua and they do not think about that. And yes, even if they have come that far, they are rejected by the migration authorities. The unbelievable thing is that, even though they are sent home, they still try to enter again and again. Some of them have been in Salto de Agua here the third or fourth time.

The SVDs and their ministry to the stranded migrants

The SVDs want to accommodate as many people as possible who have left their homeland and provide them with shelter food and medicine. To date, these stranded migrants find refuge in the chapel Santa Marta in Salto de Agua, which is far too small for this project.

Because of lack of space to accommodate the increasing number of migrants, the chapel is used as a “breather”, meaning the migrants can stay for a 24-hour period. For that small chapel, the ministry can accommodate twenty to sixty people. Of course, if they are injured, those in the ministry continue to care for them. There they can hopefully give people refuge for a few days.

A new hostel is so important

Three years ago, as a result of the increasing migration, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of Salto de Agua decided that a new hostel should be built. The new hostel needs only its finishing touches with some furnishings to be provided. This hostel is known as Casa de Migrantes. With this spacious hostel the SVDs and their collaborators can receive more refugees and provide longer duration of stay when necessary.

Bro. Joachim recalls that when the SVDs started receiving the migrants in Salto de Agua and offered help in the Chapel of Santa Marta, the news spread so fast that in due time Santa Marta became Casa de Migrantes. A confrere is assigned to manage the project and also he is responsible for the spiritual accompaniment of the migrants. Bro. Joachim takes care of the organizational and the financial aspects. According to Bro. Joachim the SVDs asked the SSpS if they can be involved in this area.

There are still things that can be done, according to Bro. Joachim. He believes that one house for migrants in Salto de Agua is not enough. Accordingly, they are even thinking of putting a second floor to the almost finished hostel. Work will continue with the migrants in transit because migration is a global phenomenon that will not be solved so quickly.

--- Adapted from the interview of Bro. Joachim Mnich


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