Most are aware that US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the US border with Mexico to prevent migration into the States and garner funds for a border wall, but perhaps what is lesser known is the risk faced by Central Americans when they are deported back.
According to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Advocacy Manager for Mexico and Central America, Samuel Almeida, a humanitarian crisis that has affected the Central American region for decades continues to be neglected.
“Our patients face many challenges on their route to the US. This population is particularly targeted by criminal organised groups and face kidnappings, sexual violence, and physical and psychological violence.
“On top of that, we also hear reports of the poor conditions they are subjected to in the US prior to deportation. Often, they are kept in very cold rooms for weeks, with limited access to medical care, quality food, clothes or blankets.
“Additionally, some of them are transferred to federal prisons, where they are kept with convicted felons when their only alleged ‘crime’ was to cross a border.”
Mr Almeida says that the current US policies put migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and returnees at great risk and calls for an end to zero-tolerance policies against migrants.
“It is similarly dangerous to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their asylum claims are processed in the US, where they are in a particularly vulnerable situation and are often targeted by organised criminal groups.”
“We hear reports of people witnessing, or being subject to, violence by other inmates in these facilities. Finally, when Hondurans are deported back to their country they are handcuffed throughout the flight.
“All of these experiences have a negative impact on their physical and psychological well-being; during an already traumatising process.”
MSF operates in Tegucigalpa, where work is dedicated to victims of violence, particularly sexual violence, and Choloma, focused on providing sexual and reproductive care. It also provides services in the cities of Reynosa and Matamoros on the Mexican border with the US, and in the cities of Tegucigalpa and Choloma in Honduras.
Mr Almeida also says that MSF have drawn attention to US authorities regarding the risk returnees face when they are deported to Reynosa at night time.
Reynosa is one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, and Almeida proposes the US could deport the returnees in the mornings, to avoid subjecting them to such risks.
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