Mass Arrests Of Asylum Seekers On Their Way To U.S. Border Branded 'Human Hunt': 'They Need International Protection'

Hundreds of asylum seekers were arrested and detained in Mexico this weekend after making a desperate attempt to reach the U.S. border after having been forced to spend weeks, if not months, waiting to be granted permission to travel north.

While some members of the group had traveled from neighboring Central American countries, many more had come from African and Caribbean countries, according to The Associated Press.

For weeks, many of the asylum seekers had been forced to wait in the Mexican town of Tapachula for officials to grant them travel visas to continue north, where they hoped to reach the U.S. border.

When those visas never came, however, they decided to leave the southern Mexican town, setting off early on Saturday morning before sunrise.

After making 20 miles of headway, the Associated Press said the asylum seekers were surrounded by hundreds of National Guard members and police officers, who forced them to return to Tapachula in vans.

Salva Lacruz, a spokesperson from the Fray Matias de Cordova Human Rights Center in Tapachula, condemned the move, accusing officials of having waited for asylum seekers to tire out from the journey before making any effort to confront them.

Branding the arrests a "human hunt," Lacruz told AP that the decision to arrest asylum seekers after they had traveled at least 20 miles and then send them back to Tapachula was an "exercise in cruelty."

"They need international protection," Lacruz said.

Instead, the hundreds of asylum seekers have been forced into limbo, waiting in Tapachula to find out whether they will be deported back to their home countries or offered visas to stay.

The Mexican government has reportedly offered asylum seekers the option of obtaining residency and work permits in southern Mexico. However, due to the influx of immigration cases the country has had following the U.S.' tightened border policies, those permits have been slow to reach beneficiaries.

Even if they do, job opportunities in southern Mexico may also be difficult to come by, given that the region is the poorest in the country.

In recent months, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has said it has seen a rise in the number of African migrants arriving at the border.

Many have set their sights on the U.S. border, as European countries continue to crack down on irregular migration.

In June, CBP said it had seen a "dramatic rise" in the number of African migrants detained at the U.S. border, with many of those apprehended coming from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola.

A man part group of asylum seekers, mostly from African countries, checks his phone as he waits for a negotiation commission to walk out El Chaparral port of entry during a protest in Tijuana, Baja California state on July 9, 2019, northwestern Mexico. GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty