Mexican authorities clear one of Mexico City's largest downtown migrant tent encampments

FILE - Haitian migrants camp out at Giordano Bruno plaza in the Juarez neighborhood of Mexico City, May 18, 2023. Federal immigration authorities said Thursday, June 6, 2024, they cleared the tent encampment, one of the largest in the city's downtown. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican federal immigration authorities said Thursday they have cleared one of Mexico City’s largest downtown tent encampments of migrants.

The National Immigration Institute says the migrants had been forced to pay bribes of between $12 and $35 to an official, who they didn't identify, for the right to pitch a tent in the tightly-packed space.

Most of the 432 migrants at the camp had some sort of visa allowing them to remain in Mexico, and simply agreed to leave. There were also some Mexican people at the camp, presumably homeless persons.

About 99 migrants were taken either to immigration offices or shelters. More than half of them were from Haiti, with most of the remainder either from Venezuela or Central America.

There used to be an office of the Mexican Commission on Refugee Aid, COMAR, nearby, but that office was closed on May 29.

Residents of the upscale but bohemian Juarez neighborhood, near the city’s center, had long complained that the largely paved pedestrian zone had been taken over for years.

They claimed it posed increased risks of crime, health hazards and deprived them of one of their few recreational areas.

The closure of such camps has had little political cost for the Mexican government in the past, and has often been welcomed by local residents.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this week, which may lead more migrants to remain in Mexico as they apply.