Arrests of foreign tourists continue at the INM
The German Embassy has expressed to DW its concern about the arrests of Europeans in Mexico, which have multiplied by 10 since 2019. Tourists Esther and Timon try to avoid being arrested in the country.
In 2021, there were 1,211 arrests of Europeans in Mexico, mostly for exceeding the period of legal stay in the country. The German Embassy has expressed to DW its concern about this increase and for not granting the maximum of 180 days stipulated for tourists without a concise communication of this change in immigration action. DW collected testimonies from European detainees, who complain about the terrible conditions and incommunicado detention in immigration stations, which function as prisons.
When they decided to spend their savings to come to Mexico, Esther and Timon wanted to enjoy its paradisiacal beaches, turquoise waters, its pyramids, and its nature, but they also chose it to visit a friend and because of the work of Timon, who is a chef and wanted to discover the rich gastronomy of the country. However, the couple ran into the hazardous immigration policy. Their vacations have changed, now their priority is to avoid getting arrested.
Timon tourist card.
The 25-year-old German couple landed in Cancun on February 7, 2022. At the airport border control, they said they would be in the country for two months and they demonstrated this by showing them the return ticket for April 5. However, the agent of the National Institute of Migration (INM) granted them only eight days of stay, indicated in the migratory format (FM) —a piece of paper of seven by five centimeters— of admission with an unintelligible scribble, especially in the case of Esther’s document. “He asked us why we wanted to stay two months and we showed him the return flight. He told us ‘perfect’ and signed the immigration document. We didn’t even know what the number of days was. He returned them to us with a very nice: ‘Welcome to Mexico.’
Arrested for exceeding the legal stay in the country
The young travelers took for granted that they could legally stay in Mexico for two months, much less than the “up to 180 days” indicated on the website of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) and that is usually granted to tourists. Europeans without further questions. They only found out that this position had changed when they were able to talk to their friend Chris, with whom they were going to stay in Playa del Carmen for the first week, but who they could not reach until after four days.
Esther’s tourist card. What the couple thought was a signature, written in pen at the bottom center, is actually an 8, that is, the number of days the airport official decided they could stay in the country.
Chris, a 30-year-old Austrian, was living his own odyssey in Mexico. He had been detained at the Chetumal immigration station, on the border with Belize, since February 5. During a journey from Playa del Carmen to Bacalar, another of Mexico’s tourist jewels, an INM checkpoint, together with members of the National Guard, stopped the bus in which he was traveling, asked for the identification of all its passengers and arrested for exceeding the legal stay in the country that they had given him upon entry.
On his immigration card (FM) the daub with the supposed number of days allowed is even more indecipherable. Chris was only given 40 days and was apprehended when he had already been in Mexico for 52 days. “They have the right to give me the days they want and to arrest me if I go too far, but they should clearly notify us of the days and give us explanations when they arrest us,” he tells Deutsche Welle by phone. The young Austrian was put in a van with barred windows, they took away his cell phone and his belongings and took him to an immigration station, a kind of prison, along with Cuban, Honduran, Salvadoran, Guatemalan citizens and also an American couple and a German.
“The hard part is not knowing when you’re going to leave”
“You feel like a criminal. They only let you make two calls a week and if nobody answered bad luck. If you asked the agents for another call, some food, or anything, the answer was always ‘right now, but no They listened to you. The difficult thing about confinement is not knowing when you are going to leave. There were people there who had been two months to half a year, “says Chris, who prefers to avoid his full name because he is still in Mexico. The young Austrian came out thanks to the mediation of his embassy and they gave him 20 days to regularize his situation in the country.
Tourist card of the Austrian Chris.
During the week of confinement, he shared a cell with Julian Pennant, a German who, after his release, explained his case in an Instagram video that went viral. Julian, an amateur boxer, denounces the poor conditions of the detention center, where he slept on thin mattresses, smelled of urine all the time, had to shower with other foreigners, had very sick people without receiving medical attention, and where the agents continually made fun of him. they.
“When I realized that they only gave me 27 days (I wanted to stay 3 months), I contacted several lawyers who advertise their services on the walls of Tulum and they told me not to worry, that all tourists exceed the legal time” , Julian affirms to this medium to justify why he did not appear before the immigration authorities to legalize his stay. In his publication, the young German assures that the immigration agents earn money for each detainee and day in jail, but without giving further explanation. The United States gives Mexico money to detain migrants. No matter what country, we are numbers, the more they say they have arrested, the more money they give them, ”he details to DW about speculation that cannot be proven so far. In the wake of Julian’s video,
Concern over rising arrests
The German Foreign Ministry has noted a considerable increase in arrests of travelers from their country. So far this year alone, the German Embassy in Mexico has received 15 requests for help from fellow citizens interned in immigration stations, diplomatic sources reveal to DW who, faced with this increase, have expressed a concern that they share with other countries of the European Union.
Given this increase in arrests and the arbitrary granting of fewer days of stay, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated the travel recommendations to Mexico. “The Mexican authorities are currently checking very carefully at the entry control whether and for how long accommodation in the country can be confirmed and whether a corresponding return ticket is available. The length of stay is very precisely reduced in the form input, often without travelers knowing it, ”he warns in a section added on January 21 at the top of the page.
French tourist Cedric was granted a 40-day stay.
As indicated in the official Mexican channels, the INM can grant up to a maximum of 180 days of legal stay to tourists from the Schengen area, but this does not imply the obligation to grant the 180 days, as was done until a few months ago, but which may be less. Immigration agents have the legal power to grant, at their discretion, as many days as they consider in each case. For this reason, the German Embassy now insists on showing the return plane ticket, although for Esther and Timon even that did not help them to give them the deadline until their departure. If travelers exceed the allowed period, Mexican authorities can detain and lock them up until they solve the case, which, given the slow Mexican bureaucracy, can take several days or weeks.
The honorary consul of Germany in Cancún maintains direct and constant contact with the immigration authorities of Quintana Roo and, as in the case of Julian, the intervention of the German embassy has allowed the rapid release of all the fellow citizens who contacted them. However, the same consular source assures DW that, if there is a greater restriction on the stay of European tourists, Mexico should communicate it in a clearer and more visible way on its official channels.
More immigration controls in tourist areas
Cedric arrived in Ixtapa (Guerrero) in November to meet his girlfriend, Florian, and volunteer at an organization for the rescue and protection of abandoned dogs and cats. After finishing their volunteering, the French couple, 34 and 31 years old, undertook a route through the Yucatan Peninsula, where the most touristic places in Mexico are located. On February 11, they took a ferry from Cozumel and, upon landing at the Playa del Carmen pier, Cedric was arrested by INM agents. They had only given him 40 days, despite the fact that he informed the airport control that he was going to stay for three months. In his case, moreover, the agent wrote in pencil in one of the corners of the immigration form the number ’90’, the days that Cedric had said he would stay. “I never even considered that they were going to give me fewer days,
He was transferred to the Cancun immigration station, where he spent three nights with an American and a Frenchman. “They took me to a so-called doctor to verify my state of health, but they did not give me any explanation,” he says. They only let him see Florian – who was given 180 days of stay – for twenty minutes. She insistently contacted the French Embassy, who replied that they had many cases like her boyfriend’s and that they couldn’t do anything during the weekend, according to the young woman.On Monday, the INM agents, according to Cedric, told the three companions that they were going to let them out because many migrants were going to enter and they did not have space. After signing numerous papers and taking his fingerprints, they released him. Despite having 20 days to regularize his situation, the couple immediately left for Guatemala for fear of being arrested again. “They treat you like a criminal, he is very traumatic. We are afraid to live it again,” they point out.
A drastic increase in detained tourists
The ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen is not a migratory route from Central America to the United States. Nor do migrants pass through the highway that leads to Chichen Itzá, the legendary Mayan city and one of the main tourist attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula, where practically only travelers transit and where in recent months immigration checkpoints have been installed. In addition, some embassies have already registered cases of arrests in the streets of Playa del Carmen, at the exit of the hotels.
Why has Mexico, for no apparent reason, begun to reduce the period of stay for tourists? Why have land immigration controls increased in tourist areas? Why do immigration agents at the airport not verbally advise of the days granted or write them in a confusing way? These are some of the questions asked by representatives of European countries in Mexico. Sources from the Mexican Embassy in Germany have also expressed to DW their concern and bewilderment over this new action by the immigration authorities towards European travelers, mostly backpackers, and also towards Americans.
However, sources from the Migration Policy Unit have told DW that there is no order to increase arrests against this profile of visitors and deny that immigration controls have been intensified in the Yucatan Peninsula, although the figures show the opposite. During the past year, a total of 1,211 foreigners from Europe were presented (detained) before the immigration authority, according to INM data to which DW has had access, which represents an exorbitant increase compared to the 67 apprehended in 2020 and the 135 of 2019.
Taking bribes is not the reason
“A restrictive immigration policy affects everyone, including the Mexican population, and now it reaches privileged profiles, such as Europeans. The INM is such a corrupt space that, by not having done a cleanup job, it allows a business with extortion,” Mariana Zaragoza, an expert in immigration affairs, tells this outlet. In response to DW, the INM denies any accusation about the collection of extortion by its agents and points out that the payment of a fine should not be confused with a bribe
However, the legal adviser of the Federal Institute of Public Defense in Cancun, Carmina Gutiérrez, confirms to this medium that there is a “serious abuse” against migrants for charging money to let them out of immigration stations. “In the middle of the year They asked for 1,500 dollars in bribes and now they are going for 2,500. It is something very widespread”, claims the public lawyer specializing in attention to people in mobility, who almost never file a complaint “for fear of reprisals from immigration agents, because they believe that if they do, it will take longer to leave the station”. supposed practice seems foreign to most Western tourists.
In the case of Chris, Julian and Cedric, the immigration agents did not ask for a payment to allow them to leave the detention center. Nor in any of the 15 cases registered by the German Embassy so far this year, according to the same source. Even when Cedric was detained along with another American tourist, his partner offered money to the INM staff and they refused.
Unanswered and afraid
European governments have no answer when their citizens call them to ask about the reasons why they are now given fewer days of stay. Inquiries from Germans with a plane ticket to Mexico “have increased substantially” in recent weeks, the German Embassy informed DW, most of them to find out what to do in the event that the airport gives them a stay of less than the one on your return ticket.
The response from the German Embassy is always the same: above all, you have to pay close attention to the days they write on the paper, or ask them to specify it verbally and try to clarify it at the moment with the immigration agent himself. If you find out later, the only solution is to go to the nearest immigration station before the legal stay period expires. If that period has already expired, when a foreigner voluntarily presents himself before the immigration authorities, Mexican law establishes that he cannot be detained. The regulations do not allow you to extend your stay as a tourist, but you can correct the days written on the migratory form if it is found that there was an error.
Esther and Timon are two of the Germans who contacted the embassy when they realized, alerted by Chris, that they had only been given eight days to stay. Although they cannot be apprehended if they come voluntarily, they were terrified to appear before the immigration authorities and sent a friend to ask about solutions to their case. The official, according to his version, told them that the best thing was for them to go to another country and re-enter to renew their length of stay, the most recurrent option among foreigners who live and work in Mexico with a tourist stay, something totally forbidden.
The German couple cannot afford to pay for two plane tickets, so they decided to take extreme precautions during their trip to avoid being apprehended. Instead of using public transport, they rent a car for long trips; they have given up going to Isla Mujeres or Cozumel so as not to take a ferry; instead of visiting Mexico City and the Gulf of California to meet other friends who live there, as they had planned, they will only move through the Yucatan peninsula and a little through Chiapas.
To the nervousness about the security conditions in a country where more than a hundred people are murdered a day and violence has already hit the most touristic places, now the fear of arrest is also added. As an example, none of the travelers interviewed, except those who are already outside the country, have wanted to give their last name to prevent any reprisal from the INM.
“We are very afraid that they will put us in an immigration prison because we have already read what the conditions are like there. That is why we are careful, but we will not stay hidden in the hotel as fugitives either. One is nervous all the time, he no longer enjoys both vacations. It gives us some peace of mind that our embassy already knows about our situation and, if they arrest us, they may be able to free us in a few days,” say Esther and Timon, who, despite the inconveniences, agree that it has enchanted the country and its people.
The young couple has the return flight at the beginning of April and at the airport control they can be fined for exceeding their granted time of stay. The sanction goes from 3,457.40 to 17,287 pesos (from about 170 to about 850 dollars) and paying it at the moment is an essential requirement to allow her to leave the country. Or maybe they don’t tell them anything and say goodbye with a friendly ‘Come back soon’, as has happened to several consulted visitors who had their period of stay expired. (ms)
Arrests of foreign tourists continue at the INM
Cases of extortion of foreign tourists continue to arrive. Michelle Corona – a friend of a Chinese tourist who was recently detained at the National Migration Institute – commented that agency officials denied her the tourist’s file. Corona stated that when they notified the embassy of the case, they had no record that the tourist was in the National Migration Institute.
In an immigration review of a bus in Macuspana, Tabasco, a German citizen with expired immigration documents was detained; She left the INM facilities this afternoon, where she was not held incommunicado. She made calls to people she trusted.