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06 Sep 19 06 Sep 19

Mexico: US migration policy endangers lives of asylum seekers in Tamaulipas state

The lives of asylum seekers are being put in danger in Tamaulipas state by the US government’s Migration Protection Protocol (MPP) and the lack of humanitarian assistance from the Mexican government.

The MPP forces asylum seekers to wait in Tamaulipas state, considered one of the most dangerous in Mexico by the US State Department, while their cases are processed.

People are forced to stay in cities, such as Matamoros, where poor infrastructure and high levels of violence – including kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery and sexual violence – are putting their health and lives at risk.  

“It is unacceptable that vulnerable people – women, men and children – are forced to live in dangerous conditions, exposed to violence from criminal gangs and treated inhumanely by the Mexican and US authorities,” says doctor Marcelo Fernandez, who oversees MSF's work in Mexico.

"I don't know this place, but I do know that it's dangerous"

Monica*Asylum seeker from Honduras

Since the MPP was implemented in Matamoros in August, MSF teams have witnessed the forced return of some 100 asylum seekers each day.

The city has few available shelters and is ill-equipped to receive them. Most are living in unhealthy conditions with poor sanitation, and inadequate drinking water and health services. Some sleep in makeshift tents on the street, exposed to violence at the hands of criminal groups vying for control of the area.

The medical response

MSF teams are providing medical and psychosocial care to asylum seekers, migrants and refugees in a number of shelters – all of which are at full capacity – in the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros in Tamaulipas state.

The situation has deteriorated since July, when MSF last spoke out about the dangers facing asylum seekers in Tamaulipas state.  

“They returned me to Matamoros with my daughter,” says Monica*, an asylum seeker from Honduras and an MSF patient.

“The Mexican authorities didn’t give me any information about where the shelters are and where we could spend the night. I don’t know this place, but I do know that it’s dangerous.”

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A perilous journey through Mexico

MSF is concerned by the Mexican government’s recent decision to transfer groups of people to the south of the country, effectively condemning them to restart their journeys northwards along routes with a high risk of violence, once again putting their lives in danger.

Between June 2018 and July 2019, 45% of MSF’s 2,315 mental health patients (covering migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and returnees) in Reynosa and Matamoros reported being victims of violence during their journey through Mexico.

Of these, one in three were physically assaulted and one in five had survived sexual violence.

Violence and persecution

MSF calls on the US government to stop sending asylum seekers back to places where they face violence and persecution.

MSF is once again calling on the US and Mexican governments to end the harmful migration policies that endanger people’s lives. The US and Mexican governments should instead implement measures that protect displaced people and guarantee urgently needed humanitarian assistance. 

*Name changed to protect identity