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What is known about the complaints in Colombia about the “rejection rooms” in Mexican airports

Travelers inadmissible by the Mexican immigration authorities may remain for hours or days in the so-called “rejection room” of an airport in Mexico, incommunicado and without knowing why they are there.

The complaints about the conditions of the “retention” sites of Colombians and people of other nationalities in air terminals, such as those in Mexico City or Cancun, are not a new issue. However, they have become relevant in recent days, after images of these places where the rights of passengers are allegedly violated.

After the numerous testimonies that account for alleged mistreatment received in that place, the Colombian Foreign Ministry reported that it agreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico to hold a “ work table ” the next 24 of October “on sensitive matters of a migratory nature of interest to both parties.”

According to Bogotá, so far this year 21.829 Colombians have been inadmissible in Mexico, a figure that triples that of 2021. Likewise, 68 complaints have been registered for cases of alleged mistreatment in Mexican air terminals.

This situation coincides with the increase recorded so far in migrants heading to the US, and passing through Mexican territory, in the context of the complex world economic and social situation.

What is known about the “rejection room”?

Since 2021 Accusations about “the rejection room” have become more frequent, to which the people not admitted by the Latin American country, without being informed about the reasons for the decision. There they must wait for the airline that took them to have a seat available to return them to their destination. This can take hours or days.

Recently, the media and networks have spread the experiences of well-known figures in Colombia who have had to stay in those rooms or “waiting rooms”, such as they are called by the Mexican authorities.

Pablo Rabelo, Colombian traveler and lecturer YouTuber, recorded a video inside one of those spaces while he was there. In his opinion, several points of the human rights booklet for migrants in Mexico are violated in this area, such as access to information, representation and decent conditions.

How is it inside?

Rabelo classified the room as “infamous”. “ In this place people go hungry and suffer from overcrowding“, he asserted in an interview with Semana.

The content creator, who moved to Mexico because he had been invited to give a conference in the state of Oaxaca, he was not admitted. He had thought that because he had a US and Canadian visa he could enter Peru without any problem, which was not the case

The ‘youtuber’ made a recording of his stay in 10 hours in the “rejection room” of the Benito Juárez International Airport, in Mexico City.

The images show a windowless room full of cabins with thin mattresses, without sheets or blankets.

“The rejection room”: That’s right the inhuman way in which Colombians not admitted to Mexico are treated. It is a room inside the Mexico City international airport where dozens of foreigners, mainly Colombians, are detained daily.

— Last Hour Col (@ultimahorapp) October 12, 2022

While he was held, the ‘youtuber’ told 18 people with it, although the capacity is 30 . The area is hot, without ventilation and has only one bathroom, which was shown in the video.

There are cameras and microphones on the ceiling, and one of the walls has a one-way mirror through which they observe the people held in place. In the video of his complaint, he says that witnessed ill-treatment against those who remained detained.

Those who are inside wait for a flight to return to their destinations, so it can take hours or days, depending on the availability of the airline.

What conditions are the passengers in?

Rabelo said that the men are separated from the women and that the families do not stay together. The people, as happened to him, are incommunicado, without a passport or personal belongings, they do not receive food and they only have the right to a three-minute phone call.

“They ask you to take everything out of your pockets and put it in your luggage and they ask you to remove your laces (…) it’s like a detention room,” he says in an interview on W Radio .

The speaker requests that the conditions of those inadmissible in the Latin American country be improved; that their basic rights are respected; that “the rejection room” is a waiting room; that there is a special area for children, lactating and pregnant women and that civil service personnel and social workers are available to inform and assist passengers.

The experience of a journalist

Colombian journalist Luz Lancheros told him about her experience in the room and admitted that she bribed a guard with 30 dollars to make Skype calls and have food. He stayed in the room 10 hours.

She explained that she was invited to Mexico to fulfill work commitments, but that her employers told her that there would be no problem if she entered with a tourist visa, which It did not happen, because she was not admitted.

She said that she had been held in the room several times and affirmed that she was handcuffed during the flight that took her back to Bogotá, from where he had left.

“When they left the plane, the most beautiful Colombians began to grope them and read their WhatsApp conversations,” he revealed.

According to her account, they stole personal belongings from her suitcase. “They treat us as if we were criminals and drug traffickers,” he concluded.

Warnings from the Colombian Foreign Ministry

Days before announcing the meeting between both countries, the Colombian Foreign Ministry published eight points on its page with recommendations and warnings for those who undertake a trip to Mexico. What is striking is that, as the text says, “ having these requirements does not guarantee admission“.

¿Qué es y qué pactaron los gobiernos de México y EE.UU. en el Diálogo de Alto Nivel sobre Seguridad?¿Qué es y qué pactaron los gobiernos de México y EE.UU. en el Diálogo de Alto Nivel sobre Seguridad?

Among the items, the obligation to fill out the pre-registration form in advance is highlighted; have a place of accommodation or letter of invitation for the stay; be clear about the purposes of the trip; show economic solvency with a budget between 100 and 460 daily dollars to cover expenses in that country; present proof of employment evidencing the vacation period to be enjoyed and have a defined tourism plan and tickets to parks or tours.

Figures and background

In April of this year, the Colombian consul in Cancún, María Fernanda Grueso, stated that daily 64 people were not admitted at the international airport of that tourist city, most of them Colombian citizens and Venezuelans. On that occasion, he stated that, despite having held meetings with the National Migration Institute to report what had happened, the complaints were not addressed, according to Reportur.

More than a year ago, in March 2012, this issue was put on the table by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Claudia Blum . In a communiqué it expressed “the Government’s concern over the repeated non-admissions of Colombians arriving in Mexico.”

The brief referred to the “alleged violations of dignity and the rights” of Colombians “by the Mexican immigration authority” and it was recalled that as part of the Pacific Alliance, since 2012, Colombians can enter that country without a tourist, business, transit and study visa, for limited periods.

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