February 13, 2020
Last week we wrote up a news summary that highlighted the increasingly grave situation that non-Hindu’s and political opponents face in India under the Hindu nationalist BJP. We also discussed the number of people from El Salvador who had been killed following deportation from the United States – most within a year of return, often in the very conditions that were recorded in their asylum claims (for those who had filed). The theme was that asylum seekers are not lying, and making it nearly impossible to safely access asylum processes in the United States means people die.
For those who are following the dismantling of asylum that has taken place under Trump – and working to push back against it – Médicins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (hereafter MSF) has issued a must-read report this week on the violence that people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are facing at home. The report, No Way Out: The Humanitarian Crisis for Migrants and Asylum Seekers Trapped Between the United States, Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America is available here.
The report is based on interviews of 480 Central American refugees accessing MSF clinics in Mexico, in addition to the review of medical records of 26,000 other migrants. Summary statistics from the report.
On violence in home countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala):
— 61.9 % of the migrants and refugees interviewed by MSF had been exposed to a violent situation in the two years prior to leaving their home country.
— Almost half (42.5 %) of those interviewed reported the violent death of a relative in the last two years, 16.2 % had a relative who was forcibly disappeared, and 9.2 % had a relative kidnapped.
— Of those interviewed, 35.8 % had been threatened for extortion, 26.9 % had been victims of some kind of assault, and 5 % had been victims of torture in the two years prior to leaving their country.
— Of those interviewed, 45.8 % mentioned at least one event involving exposure to violent situations as a key reason for deciding to migrate. The most frequently reported violence-related reasons were direct assaults on themselves or their families (20.8 %), extortion (14.9 %), other threats (14.3 %), attempted forced recruitment by gangs (10.5 %), and confinement (5.5 %). People traveling with children more often reported leaving on the grounds of violence (75.8 %).
— More than a third (36.4 %) of the migrants and refugees who mentioned that they had fled due to violence had initially been internally displaced for the same reason.
— Of the migrants and refugees interviewed, 52.3 % had already tried to migrate at least once before. Of these, 82 % had been deported at least once before.
— Of the 2,353 people who received a mental health consultation in MSF clinics in El Salvador between January 2018 and September 2019, 62 % had suffered from exposure to violence as a precipitating factor; 23.3 % of all cases were related to intentional physical violence (assault, rape, or torture).
MSF also reports on the extreme amount of violence that migrants face trying to cross Mexico to get to the U.S. border – where so many are now trapped.
— Of those interviewed, 57.3 % had been exposed to some kind of violence along the migration route through Mexico.
— During their transit through Mexico, 39.2 % were violently attacked and 27.3 % were threatened or extorted.
— 5.93 % reported witnessing a death after entering Mexico; in 17.9 % of cases the cause of death was murder.
— Of the 3,695 people who received MSF mental health consultations at health care posts for the migrant population in Mexico between January 2018 and September 2019, 78 % had suffered from exposure to violence as a precipitating factor. With regard to the type of violence to which they had been exposed, 24.7 % presented risk factors associated with intentional physical violence (assault, sexual violence, and torture).
— In the first nine months of 2019, the number of sexual violence cases (277) treated by MSF in Mexico more than doubled —increasing by 134 % compared to the same period last year (118).
— Eight out of every 10 people (79.6 %) treated by MSF in Nuevo Laredo during the first nine months of 2019 reported being victims of violence. 43.7 % of patients said they had experienced violence in the seven days prior to their consultation.
— 18.6 % of the people seen in our mental health program in Nuevo Laredo between January and September 2019 had been victims of kidnapping, and 63 % of those said they had been abducted in the seven days prior to the consultation.
— In September 2019, out of 41 patients in Nuevo Laredo who were returned to Mexico by the US under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), 418 had been kidnapped recently (43.9 %) and an additional five patients (12.2 %) had been the victim of an attempted kidnapping. In October, the percentage of kidnappings among those sent to Mexico under the MPP program increased to 75 % (33 of the 44 new patients).
From the press release announcing the report:
Recent US policies and bilateral agreements reached with Mexico and other regional governments are effectively dismantling the system to protect refugees and asylum seekers. These measures leave Central Americans with nowhere to turn for protection and no viable way to escape the violence.
Insecurity, pervasive violence, and the lack of adequate protection mechanisms have clear impacts on the physical and mental health of the patients treated by MSF. Teams see conditions commonly suffered by people on the move, such as respiratory infections, skin disorders, and acute musculoskeletal problems.
They also treat a range of injuries from weapons and from kidnappings, sexual abuse, and rape. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress conditions precipitated by a violent event are some of the main reasons why people seek mental health services.
“These policies to block people from asylum and send them back into danger have worsened the humanitarian crisis in the region,” said Marc Bosch, who oversees MSF programs in Latin America. “The US and Mexico must end these policies and governments of the region must put people at the centre of migration policies.”
“The US and Mexican governments must ensure that victims of violence have access to humanitarian assistance, health services and protection,” said Bosch. “All people, regardless of their legal status, deserve to be treated with dignity.”
The Quixote Center is working with the Franciscan Network on Migration, which provides support for migrants traversing Mexico. The network includes the shelter La 72 Casa de Migrantes in Tenosique (MSF works here, among other spaces in the country), and a shelter in Mazatlán. Quixote Center is serving as fiscal sponsor for fundraising activities for these initiatives in the United States. If you would like to support this work, you can do so here.
You can also take action to demand Congress defund the Remain in Mexico policy – Trump has requested $126 million more this year. Congress must tell him “No”!!!!
Veronica Escobar (TX-D) has introduced legislation to defund remain in Mexico and work to extend protections to asylum seekers more generally. The Asylum Seeker Protection Act (H.R. 2662) has 63 co-sponsors. Check to see if your member of Congress is one of them here. If not, call and ask them to co-sponsor the bill!