In Mexico, these people are systematically exposed to further episodes of violence. We have been working with migrants and refugees in Mexico since 2012. Our teams work on Mexico’s southern and northern borders, and at various key locations in between, offering medical, psychological and social support to migrants and refugees along the perilous migration route from South and Central America to the United States.
In Mexico City, we have a comprehensive care centre where we provide specialised multidisciplinary care to migrants, refugees and Mexican people who have been victims of extreme violence and torture. We also provide counselling and mental health services to migrants and refugees outside the Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR).
MSF has repeatedly denounced the repressive policies of the U.S. and Mexican governments based on criminalisation, persecution, detention and deportation in order to contain migratory flows to the northern border. These policies push migrants into the hands of criminal gangs who extort them.
Through mobile clinics, we delivered medical and mental health services in Tenosique (Tabasco), Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz), Tapachula and Palenque (Chiapas), Piedras Negras (Coahuila), Reynosa, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas), as well as in the capital, Mexico City, prioritising assistance to unaccompanied minors, women travelling alone, and victims of direct violence.
In August, in response to an influx of thousands of migrants at Mexico’s southern border, the immigration authorities started to issue transit permits in the small town of San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca. In October, Mexico and the US agreed that Venezuelans entering the US irregularly would be deported to Mexico under Title 42.* This decision prompted immediate expulsions at the northern border.
Following this announcement, the authorities in San Pedro Tapanatepec halted the issuance of permits, even though thousands of people of different nationalities, including children, continued to arrive at the border, where they remained stranded without access to shelter, medical services, or adequate water and sanitation facilities. Within a few days, we mobilised an emergency team to provide assistance to over 20,000 people.
In Reynosa and Matamoros, more than 5,000 people were stranded in informal camps with limited access to drinking water, health services and protection. Our teams adapted activities according to their changing needs, distributing items such as blankets, warm clothing and thermal sleeping mats when the weather turned cold, as well as food.
In our comprehensive care centre in Mexico City, we provided a complete package of care for survivors of extreme violence and torture, including medical treatment, mental health, and social support.
MSF teams composed of doctors, psychologists, community educators and social workers also offered support in the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance building, as well as in the northern bus terminal and six shelters in the city.
*A US public health order that has been misused during the COVID-19 pandemic to effectively close the US southern border to asylum seekers. Title 42 has resulted in more than two million expulsions in under three years.
The situation in Reynosa, through the eyes of MSF and the people we assist
MSF HAS WORKED IN REYNOSA SINCE 2017 TREATING VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN THE CITY, AND MORE RECENTLY PROVIDING MENTAL AND MEDICAL CARE TO MIGRANTS AND DEPORTEES
Forced to leave their home countries because of gang violence and poverty, people on the move are increasingly prevented from reaching the US to ask for asylum.
Instead, they find themselves trapped at the border in areas of rampant violence, waiting to cross in deplorable humanitarian conditions.
Our teams have documented a pattern of violent displacement, persecution, sexual violence and forced repatriation. It’s a violence that starts in the country of origin and is replicated along their journeys through Mexico.
"I'm not a criminal"
"I FLED HONDURAS BECAUSE THE GANGS WANTED TO RECRUIT ME AND I REFUSED."
The story of 17-year-old José* is representative of many of the young patients we care for in our projects in Tegucigalpa and Choloma, in Honduras, and Reynosa, Mexico.