Image copyright AFP Image caption An elderly woman stands near stacks of mattresses being stored at a reception centre in Veracruz, Mexico

More than 100 Haitian refugees have been repatriated from Veracruz in Mexico as the UN refugee agency works to shore up local political support.

A vehicle transport the Haitians to the Mexican capital, Mexico City, on Monday.

They were caught up in a disagreement between two Mexican cities in a competition to host more refugees.

It came just a day after the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) called for politicians to “discuss” migrants’ rights.

Rights groups say some migrants have been made vulnerable by police offers, detention centres and restrictive laws.

The UNHCR had lobbied for the group to be allowed to remain and they were freed by the Veracruz governor to take up a permanent residence offer in the state capital.

Residents of the northern town of Ensenada organised a campaign to take in many refugees but members of Veracruz’s governing party told authorities they were not welcome.

Immigration officials responded by releasing the Haitians, who included a pregnant woman and scores of other minors, said the UNHCR, which normally coordinates for Haitian migrants on Mexican soil.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Many Haitians had wanted to become permanent residents

UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said officials in the western state of Sonora had agreed to receive a Haitian family, holding that the additional migrants had been let into the United States.

IOM said it was now coordinating with the UNHCR to draft a formal request for the group to move to Mexico City.

“It was one of the most degrading things I have ever seen as a human being,” said the mayor of Ensenada, Beatriz Hernandez.

The town had prepared to receive them but the police, apparently aiming to influence the issue, decided that a summary return was the best option, she added.

“Our population is so small that it’s impossible to receive them,” she said.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Will the Mexico City centre house all those who made it?

In an interview with local media, the Veracruz governor Jorge Rodríguez said: “The state decided to secure our ports to prevent the undocumented migrants from crossing into the US.”

However he also acknowledged that his party had been trying to influence the decision of Ensenada’s mayor.

“We need to confront this thing and regulate what the municipalities are doing,” he said.

The IOM, which currently provides aid to hundreds of migrants in various Mexican cities, said thousands more “may now” try to come.

About 250,000 Haitians are believed to be in the US, where they are among the largest number of foreigners in the country.

Image copyright AFP Image caption One UNHCR official said conditions were better in Mexico than in the US

The UNHCR official said that migrants remained under US migration laws and so were subject to deportation.

He said that conditions in Mexico were better than in the US but complained of “conditions and negative attitudes” when Haitian migrant groups congregate in host communities.

“People need to stop that and discuss it,” Mr Spindler said.

More than 600,000 Central Americans have entered Mexico so far this year. Since 1849, the country has welcomed some 3 million Cuban migrants, returning fewer than 20,000 last year.

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