More than one million people in central America and Mexico are displaced from their homes, including 234,899 refugees and asylum seekers. Many have fled violence, oppression, poverty, and inequality. Migrants and asylum seekers regularly face administrative, economic, and legal barriers to receiving medical treatment and other basic services. They often don’t have access to timely and factual information about complex migration and asylum processes, which can leave them stranded in precarious situations.
In January, 2019, the United States (US) government announced the implementation of the Migration Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which forced 60,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico to await their hearings. Many ended up trapped in unsanitary makeshift tent camps or shelters in dangerous cities such as Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo.
In the south of Mexico, near the border with Guatemala, migrants and asylum seekers are targeted during raids and mass arrests by authorities. Criminalizing migration pushes people to travel clandestinely and take dangerous routes where they are more likely to be targeted by criminal gangs and where medical care and basic services are not accessible.
In Mexico, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical and mental health care to migrants and asylum seekers in shelters and through mobile clinics along the migration route and in cities bordering the US. Between January 2018 and January 2020, more than 60 percent of MSF’s patients along the migration route said they experienced violence in their home countries. Another 57 percent were exposed to violence along the migration route. Access to medical and mental health care for migrants and asylum seekers is essential.
Most of MSF’s patients in Mexico are waiting to seek asylum in the United States, but with the US-Mexico border closed to asylum seekers—due to new COVID-19 restrictions and the continued dismantling of the US asylum system through various new rules and executive orders—they must continue to survive in Mexico amid uncertainty with limited to access basic services.
On International Migrants Day, MSF shares patient testimonies that illustrate the challenges people face while trying to seek safety.