"My country is dangerous—I can't go back there. Ever.”

A refugee stranded at the US-Mexico border shares his story


Mexico 2021 © MSF/Yesika Ocampo


Standing with LGBTQI+ colleagues and patients in honor of Pride Month

In many of the places where Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people are often marginalized and denied access to health care.

Paolo fled Togo, in West Africa, because he feared for his life. He has been traveling for two years, crossing the Americas in his attempt to reach safety in the US. He is now waiting in Nuevo Laredo to be able to cross the border legally. 

"My name is Paolo, I am from Togo. I have traveled through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. It took a year. I had to stay in Panama for 11 months because of COVID-19: February to November in Panama. I arrived in Mexico on December 6.

© Carrie Hawks

I want to go to the US. I have problems in my country, and when I reached Bolivia, I didn't know anybody. Spanish was difficult: nobody talked to me. I suffered there, so I left.


© Carrie Hawks

In my country if you are gay, they don't accept it. People came to my house. They came to my home, they beat me, they cut me; they wanted to abandon me in the forest. They wanted to take pictures and publish them on social media. I don't know where my partner is. Before the pictures were uploaded, I ran away. My country is dangerous—I can't go back there. Ever. They could kill me. My family told me that God was punishing me.

© Carrie Hawks

The US is better than here, than there. I want to cross in a legal manner. I don't have a lawyer; I only have one friend here. I didn't tell anybody that I was leaving my country.

I haven't had any problems with crime. Once, four men asked me and my friend where we were from. We told them that we were from Africa, so they let us go. We told them we were looking for aid.

My friend has a job here. We are trying, but the border is closed. We'll wait for three months, six months, waiting for the border to open.

© Carrie Hawks

It's better to cross to the US. I don't speak Spanish, so I feel quite alone, I can't speak to anybody. My friend, the guy that helped me on the road, speaks Spanish."