REPORT: 80% of Asylum Seekers Forced to Remain in Mexico Are Victims of Violence

By Shani Saxon Jan 30, 2020

Eighty percent of the people sent to Mexico as part of the government’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also referred to as “Remain in Mexico,” claim to be victims of violence, according to a report from Doctors Without Borders, or Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF). 

It has been one year since the Trump administration announced MPP, a border policy that requires tens of thousands of asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting for their United States immigration court hearing to take place. According to the MSF report, the organization “works along the migration route in Mexico, and at border locations in Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Mexicali, and Reynosa," where they witness firsthand the dangerous consequences of MPP. The report adds:

Approximately 80 percent of the migrants treated by MSF teams in Nuevo Laredo during the first nine months of 2019 reported having suffered at least one violent incident. Another 43.7 percent of patients said they had been victims of violence during the seven days prior to the consultation.

In September 2019, 43 percent of MSF´s patients who were sent to Nuevo Laredo through MPP had been kidnapped recently. Twelve percent of patients reported being victims of a failed kidnapping attempt. In October 2019, the percentage of MSF patients who were in Nuevo Laredo due to MPP who had been kidnapped rose to 75 percent. These figures only represent MSF programs and do not capture the massive scope of violence migrants are facing.

Marcelo Fernandez, regional coordinator for MSF programs in Central America, says the concept of MPP is highly flawed. Many of our patients are escaping high levels of violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador,” he said in the report. "It is preposterous that the U.S. would send people back to the very same Central American countries people are fleeing in the first place.”

As Colorlines previously reported, immigration attorneys and advocates blamed MPP for causing "chaos and confusion" at the border shortly after it launched. According to MSF, the approximately 60,000 people that have been forced to remain in Mexico are "vulnerable to kidnapping and violence" as a result. 

According to MSF:

In Nuevo Laredo, MSF patients face severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress due to the danger of being returned to Mexico and uncertainty of their future. “Our patients are living in a state of limbo and constant fear,” said Martin. “They are traumatized and in need of mental health support.”

MPP is just one in a litany of new extremely harmful asylum restrictions enacted by the US in cooperation with governments in the region that risk people’s lives and purposefully send people back to danger.

“The people we are seeing along the migration route are well aware of the dangers they will face along the way, but they are desperate to escape violence and poverty back home and they will continue to seek refuge in the United States,” Fernandez said. "The United States must end this cruel and inhumane policy that forces people to risk their lives to seek asylum.”

You can read the full report here