In fact, our 2017 report on the threats Central Americans face along the migration route revealed the significant unmet medical and humanitarian needs people have, and the dangers they face while in Mexico. The data are drawn from surveys and patient records from 2015 and 2016. This was not a representative survey of the thousands of people traveling north each year, and the information only applied to MSF medical projects in Mexico, which at the time were nowhere near the US border. (As of 2019, we are providing care in various locations along the border—including Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros.)
Our report found that a staggering 68 percent of patients treated at MSF sites reported an incident of violence after crossing the border into Mexico. One-third of the women surveyed and 17 percent of the men reported “sexual abuse” while in transit. (To be clear, for the narrower category of rape and other forms of sexual violence, 10.7 percent of women and 4.4 percent of men surveyed were affected during their transit through Mexico. Patients reported that the perpetrators of violence included members of gangs and other criminal organizations, as well as members of the Mexican security forces responsible for their protection.)
When citing our figures, Administration officials generally do not mention that almost 40 percent of patients surveyed said that they fled their countries due to violence, and that close to 44 percent of them had experienced the murder of a family member over the prior two years. Many of our patients along the migration routes through Mexico are refugees with a reasonable fear of death or violence if sent back to their countries. No wall, nor even the threat of violence along the journey north, will prevent people from fleeing if their lives are in danger back home.
For years, MSF has spoken out about the dangers facing Central Americans along the migration route in Mexico and in their home countries. Since 2012, we’ve provided care to tens of thousands of patients in our migrant programs in Mexico. We treat their injuries and illnesses and offer psychological support in the midst of this difficult journey.
The Trump Administration is now selectively using data from our reporting to scare Americans about violence at the border and to make a “humanitarian” case for its wall. What the White House fails to acknowledge is that the chaos and suffering at the southern border are the direct results of US policies designed keep out migrants and asylum-seekers at all costs. The US is not only failing to address the humanitarian crisis in Central America but is fueling a wider crisis in Mexico.
As an organization providing medical care and counseling to thousands of people along the migration route, we have a responsibility to speak out against laws and policies that inflict greater harm. We have called for an end to so-called zero tolerance policies against migrants. We have opposed the US government’s decision to no longer recognize gang violence and domestic violence as legitimate grounds for asylum. We have warned about the danger of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their asylum claims are processed in the US.