Harsh migration policies by the United States, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala leave people on the move more exposed to the double threats posed by organized crime and COVID-19, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today. MSF is witnessing the impact of the criminalization of migration and increasing militarization of borders, likely related to pressure and influence by the US on countries in the region.
MSF medical teams are treating people affected by repeated raids and arbitrary detentions on the southern border of Mexico. They are also seeing asylum seekers who were forced back to Mexico by the US under the Title 42 order, which has been misused to authorize mass expulsions ostensibly for public health reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These Title 42 expulsions effectively block the right to seek asylum in the US.
“Once again we are seeing the construction of physical, bureaucratic, and security walls to block asylum and stop the free movement of people fleeing violence in their countries of origin,” said Antonino Caradonna, coordinator of MSF's migration project in the country. “This is evident both on the northern and southern borders of Mexico. While the United States immediately blocks and expels newcomers en masse, Mexico represses and detains them en masse.”
MSF teams on Mexico’s southern border have repeatedly denounced the mass raids and arbitrary arrests in areas with a high concentration of migrants and asylum seekers, including near the organization's healthcare posts. There have been several incidents in Coatzacoalcos, in the southern state of Veracruz, a railway hub that is widely used by people on the move.
“In fact, last week, raids were carried out in Coatzacoalcos on the railway tracks, and around 50 migrants, including families with children, were arbitrarily detained,” said Caradonna. “They were sleeping near the shelter because they are being denied accommodation.” Many shelters in Mexico have shut down or reduced capacity due to the pandemic.
Police action near shelters or places where migrants receive medical and humanitarian assistance “pushes people in transit to hide more, to opt for more dangerous routes, to be more vulnerable to organized crime and extortion,” said Caradonna. “We have to denounce the extreme lack of protection for these people.”
The testimonies collected by MSF in the area corroborate the increase in raids and arrests on Mexico’s southern border, which put the physical and mental health of asylum seekers and migrants at risk.