© MSF/Esteban Montaño
13 Sep 21 14 Sep 21

Mexico: Mass deportations and failed asylum policies leave tens of thousands of migrants stranded and in danger along border cities

Mexico City, September 8, 2021 – Tens of thousands of migrants are trapped in extremely vulnerable conditions in northern and southern Mexico due to failed asylum policies and mass deportations from the US, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today, denouncing the overcrowded conditions and lack of access to medical and social services for migrants in Mexico.

"These people find themselves with few alternatives for shelter, overcrowded, or living in the street in precarious sanitary conditions and at risk of COVID-19 infection," said Christoph Jankhöfer, coordinator of MSF's migrant project in Mexico.

"We are concerned about the anxiety, depression and hopelessness of the population in the absence of a response from authorities".

Emergency intervention in the south

This week, MSF sent an emergency team to Tapachula in southern Mexico, where approximately 40,000 migrants are crowded together, without access to housing, basic services, or opportunities for employment.

Around 500 migrants started a caravan on Saturday 4 September from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula towards the northern part of the country in order to protest about their precarious situation.

On September 4,500 of these migrants joined a caravan north to protest their conditions and abandonment.

A first MSF assessment team, which accompanied the caravan for part of the journey, has treated patients for dehydration, headaches, muscle aches and wounded feet. They also treated a case of hypoglycaemia.

Migrants in Tapachula come from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, Haiti and Cuba.

Dozens of thousands of migrants from Central America and South America have been trapped in Tapachula for months, after being deported from the USA or crossing from Guatemala.

A significant number of people in Tapachula are women and children.

"We are concerned about the anxiety, depression and hopelessness of the population in the absence of a response from authorities"

Christoph Jankhöfer, coordinator of MSF's migrant project in Mexico

They have been in limbo for months.

Around 500 migrants started a caravan on Saturday 4 September from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula towards the northern part of the country in order to protest about their precarious situation.

Many recently crossed the border with Guatemala, while others were deported by the United States to the northern border of Mexico and then transferred to southern Mexico by Mexican authorities.

Another limbo in the north

More than 2,000 people are living in a similar situation in the northern town of Reynosa, some 200 meters from the international bridge that links this Mexican city with Hidalgo, Texas.

Restrictive immigration policies such as Title 42 have serious consequences on the migrant population.

Migrants there—most of them from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are exposed to inclement heat, without adequate access to basic services and at serious security risk.

In Reynosa's Plaza de la Republica there are only 18 public toilets available at the camp, approximately one for every 110 people.

In Plaza de la República in Reynosa, north-eastern Mexico, more than 2,000 people from the Northern Triangle of Central America are living in tents in open air, in deplorable conditions of habitat and security, after being expelled from the US.

Those who want to bathe or wash their clothes must pay 10 Mexican pesos (half a dollar) to use the showers and sinks for a maximum of 10 minutes.

Drinking water (which is sometimes scarce), clothing, food, mattresses, tents, medicines and medical consultations are being provided by civil society organizations.

Restrictive immigration policies such as Title 42 have serious consequences on the migrant population.

“The only options they have are to stay in Mexico and try to survive in deplorable conditions, or to attempt to cross into the US again", said Anayeli Flores, MSF's humanitarian affairs officer in Reynosa.

"Neither the Mexican nor the U.S. government are providing adequate support, despite the fact that it is US policy and Mexico’s cooperation with these policies that keep these people in conditions of vulnerability, violating their right to seek asylum."

Ailments associated with precariousness and psychological disorders

In Reynosa, MSF provides primary health and mental health consultations and counselling through a team of social workers. It is also supporting in the provision of drinking water at the camp.

Between March and August of this year, MSF carried out 902 consultations. Teams are mostly treating respiratory, digestive and dermatological conditions, largely due to severe overcrowding and obstacles to proper hygiene.

MSF provides primary health and mental health services, as well as support in providing clean water for the population in the Plaza de la Republica.

Having walked long distances along the route, migrants also present with foot pain and general muscle aches.

"Policies that criminalize migration, the lack of an adequate humanitarian response, and repeated violence and persecution against migrants are unacceptable and endanger the lives of thousands of men, women and children"

Gemma Domínguez, MSF's general coordinator in Mexico

Most of the people MSF assists have left their country of origin due to violence, and they are often victims of violence along the migration route north.

In Plaza de la República in Reynosa, north-eastern Mexico, more than 2,000 people from the Northern Triangle of Central America are living in tents in open air, in deplorable conditions of habitat and security, after being expelled from the US.

In addition to this history of trauma, migrants are dealing with the mental health impact of the precarious nature of their living conditions and migration status, and separation from their family members.

This can lead to emotional disorders such as anxiety, stress, excessive fear, constant worry and, in severe cases, psychological disorders.

MSF provides primary health and mental health services, as well as support in providing clean water for the population in the Plaza de la Republica.

Policies that criminalize migrants

Most of the migrants in Reynosa, including women, pregnant women, children, the elderly, LGBTQ population, indigenous and non-Spanish speakers, have been expelled from the United States through Title 42, a US public health order policy that constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.

Around 500 migrants started a caravan on Saturday 4 September from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula towards the northern part of the country in order to protest about their precarious situation.

The policy uses the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to block people seeking protection in the US and deport them to border cities in Mexico, with the blessing of the Mexican government.

These policies have put migrants in direct danger and have generated worrying episodes of violence.

"MSF urgently calls on Mexican and U.S. authorities to take action to address the grave humanitarian situation of migrant populations throughout the country, particularly in border regions"

"The situation of migrants in Mexico is unsustainable,” said Gemma Domínguez, MSF's general coordinator in Mexico.

“Policies that criminalize migration, the lack of an adequate humanitarian response, and repeated violence and persecution against migrants are unacceptable and endanger the lives of thousands of men, women and children”.

Around 500 migrants started a caravan on Saturday 4 September from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula towards the northern part of the country in order to protest about their precarious situation.

MSF urgently calls on Mexican and U.S. authorities to take action to address the grave humanitarian situation of migrant populations throughout the country, particularly in border regions.

The US and Mexican governments must work together to promote access to protection in the region instead of coordinating on interdiction.

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