A sports complex is housing thousands of migrants in Tijuana. It’s at least 3 times above its capacity.

Posted at 7:41 AM, Nov 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-29 08:41:56-05

By Leyla Santiago, Miguel Marquez and Catherine E. Shoichet

TIJUANA, Mexico (CNN) — The sports complex sheltering thousands of Central American migrants in this Mexican border city is well above its capacity, and more migrants are expected to arrive in the coming days.

More than 5,800 migrants have taken shelter in the Benito Juarez Sports Complex, according to Mexico’s Social Development Secretariat.

That’s at least three times above the facility’s capacity, said Rodolfo Olimpo, a representative from Baja California state’s Special Committee on Migration Issues.

State and municipal officials are looking to open another shelter, Olimpo said, but they haven’t found any local business or space willing to rent out their facilities for the migrants.

CNN crews that visited the Benito Juarez shelter found squalid conditions, including open sewage drains. Many people appeared restless and nervous.

Inside the sports complex, which has become the main facility sheltering migrants in Tijuana, migrants wait for hours in long lines for food. Tents cover sports fields and spill outside the facility’s gates.

Many migrants say they’re waiting for the chance to seek asylum in the United States. Given the massive backlog at the nearby port of entry, it could be weeks before they have a chance to cross the border and begin to make their case.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Red Cross has been providing medical assistance for migrants in the shelter. The Mexican navy has set up two small kitchens nearby the shelter, Olimpo said, and the federal government has installed two water plants.

But Amnesty International said on Monday the shelter doesn’t have enough resources for migrants housed there, describing conditions as “unsanitary.”

“Mexican federal, state and municipal officials separately confirmed to Amnesty International that the temporary shelter did not have sufficient food, water and health services, and that respiratory illnesses were spreading among those staying there,” Amnesty said.

Tijuana’s mayor has described the situation as a crisis and called for humanitarian help.

The growing number of migrants in Tijuana, a city of about 2 million people just south of California, is “a big problem” that “we are not capable of solving,” Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum told CNN.

The Mexican federal government — with a new president due to be installed Saturday — or the United Nations must step in, the mayor said, to “give us shelter, give them food, water, medicines, everything that a person needs to be dignified and have a place where they can stay dignified.”