World US policy puts migrants at risk of kidnapping, extortion:...

US policy puts migrants at risk of kidnapping, extortion: MSF


Central American migrants and asylum seekers already undergo from psychological well being points stemming from the violence they’re fleeing, however US and regional immigration insurance policies are making issues a lot worse, based on a brand new report by Docs With out Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).

Violence each within the home nation and Mexico is a key precipitating consider alarming ranges of signs of psychological sickness amongst migrants and asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, based on a report revealed on Tuesday by the worldwide humanitarian medical organisation.

“The violence to which Central American migrants and refugees are exposed has a clear impact on their mental health,” MSF stated in its report.


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The publication, No Approach Out, attracts on 1000’s of psychological well being consultations carried out by MSF in Central America and Mexico, interviews with personnel, and a survey of 480 migrants and asylum seekers at 5 shelters alongside migrant routes in Mexico.

“The main afflictions that we see, clinically speaking in terms of mental health, are classically PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression and anxiety,” Gordon Finkbeiner, coordinator of MSF’s Migrants Mission in Mexico, informed Al Jazeera.

‘Focused in Mexico’

Of the lots of of migrants and asylum seekers surveyed between January 2018 and September 2019, 61.9 percent had been uncovered to at least one violent event within the two years previous to leaving their home nation, together with the violent death (42.5 percent) or disappearance (16.9 percent) of a relative.

Throughout the identical interval, more than half of the 1000’s of migrant psychological well being session sufferers in Mexico offered average or severe signs, primarily associated to anxiousness, PTSD and despair.

“The violence suffered by people living in [Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador] is comparable to that in war zones where [MSF] has been working for decades,” based on the organisation.

Migrants, most of them asylum seekers, despatched again to Mexico from the US beneath the Stay in Mexico programme, formally named Migrant Safety Protocols (MPP), wait in line for a meal outside the Human Repatriation office in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters] 

However the violence doesn’t cease there. Of the lots of of migrants and asylum seekers surveyed at shelters in Mexico, 57.3 percent had been uncovered to some variety of violence alongside the route in Mexico, 39.2 percent had been violently attacked, together with instances of sexual assault, and 27.3 percent had been threatened or extorted.

“Migrants are being perceived by organised crime around Mexico very often as a target for extortion. They’re being seen as merchandise in a certain sense,” stated Finkbeiner.

“Mexico is clearly not safe for migrants, and ‘Remain in Mexico’ makes matters only worse, much worse,” he stated.


Below the “Remain in Mexico” policy, formally often called the Migrant Safety Protocols, the US returns asylum claimants to Mexico whereas their instances are processed. Greater than 60,000 predominantly Central American asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico since implementation started simply over a yr in the past.

“What we are currently seeing is that migrants who are being returned to Mexico to await their court dates under this ‘Remain in Mexico’ programme are being presented to organised crime on a silver platter, really,” stated Finkbeiner.

In Nuevo Laredo, a Mexican metropolis throughout the border from Texas, MSF teams have witnessed kidnappings of migrants and asylum seekers proper outside shelters and at bus stations. The pastor in cost of a Nuevo Laredo migrant shelter and one of his colleagues have been kidnapped final yr and haven’t been seen since.

Of the 44 new MSF sufferers who obtained psychological well being consultations in October 2019 in Nuevo Laredo, 75 percent had been kidnapped within the week previous to the session. That they had all been returned beneath the Migrant Safety Protocols.

“We have been seeing the tendency growing but that spike was particularly pronounced. Ever since then, the majority of people we are attending [in Nuevo Laredo] have been kidnapped in the few days prior to the consultation,” stated Finkbeiner.

The fixed risk of violence leaves a profound mark on a person’s psychological well being, which may typically go undetected as a consequence of stigmatisation and the dearth of institutional sources for figuring out and treating instances.


In accordance with the Guiding Rules of Migrant Safety Protocols, individuals with “known physical/mental health issues” are “not amenable” to the protocols. Human rights teams, nonetheless, have documented the return of asylum seekers, together with youngsters, with recognized severe medical circumstances, together with most cancers and seizure issues.

The US Division of Homeland Safety didn’t reply by the point of publication to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on what would represent recognized psychological well being points.

“The constant threat of violence leaves a profound mark on an individual’s mental health, which can sometimes go undetected due to stigmatisation and the lack of institutional resources for identifying and treating cases,” based on MSF.

Migrants and asylum seekers Al Jazeera spoke to have typically addressed the anxiousness that comes attempting to navigate the damaging journey to the US-Mexico border.

Manuelfled extortion-related death threats in Honduras final yr and is making his means north by means of Mexico along with his spouse and their 5 youngsters, aged 4 by means of 16. However now they confront the likelihood they are going to be pressured to stay in Mexico and face more of the violence they fled.

“Mexico is a country that makes a lot of money from migrants, from kidnapping and extortion,” Manuel informed Al Jazeera.

MSF is asking for a direct halt to the US removing of asylum seekers to 3rd countries, together with forcing individuals to attend in Mexico, amongst different calls for of the governments of the US, Mexico and northern Central America.

“People are being put at risk,” stated Finkbeiner. “People fleeing violence should not be criminalised and should not be greeted with guns. People’s needs should be put at the centre of the immigratory policies.”

*The person’s identify has been modified at their request to guard their id.

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