Migrant camps swell in Mexican border towns as Central American families flee

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - As an increasing number of migrants flee humanitarian crises in Central America, makeshift encampments are growing along Mexico’s border with the United States, where the migrants ultimately hope to gain asylum.

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More than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children, are living in a collection of tents at the base of an international bridge in Tijuana, according to Mexico’s national human rights commission.

Over 200 more migrants are camping out in the plaza in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, the commission said.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of Central American children and families fleeing to the United States in recent months, as the region is gripped by a worsening economic and hunger crisis.

The number of families apprehended by U.S. agents while crossing the border nearly tripled in February from a month earlier to about 19,000 people.

U.S. ports of entry remain closed to the vast majority of asylum seekers.

The Biden administration is rapidly expelling the majority of migrants caught crossing the border back into Mexico, although unaccompanied minors and some families have been permitted to enter the United States to pursue their asylum cases.

Earlier this month, Mexican authorities dismantled a sprawling migrant encampment in the border city of Matamoros, after U.S. officials permitted the majority of the camp’s residents to cross into Texas.

Their entrance was part of the Biden administration’s efforts to reverse his predecessor’s controversial program, known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims advanced through U.S. courts.

The majority of the residents of the new encampments in Tijuana and Reynosa are not enrolled in the MPP program.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Mimi Dwyer in Mexico City; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Matthew Lewis