Latin America & the Caribbean Rapid Gender Analysis April 2020
Publication Date: 27/04/2020
Asylum seekers and migrants traveling through Central America and Mexico to the U.S. border face a range of risks, but women, girls, and other vulnerable groups—such as members of the LGBTQIA community—are confronted with additional threats to their health, safety, and well-being in their countries of origin, countries of transit, and in the U.S. As a result, asylum seekers and migrants who arrive at the U.S.–Mexico border often carry a heavy burden of trauma from experiences with violence. The lack of a system to appropriately support people on the move deepens pre-existing inequalities and exposes already vulnerable groups to additional, unnecessary, risks.
The U.S. Government’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, returns asylum seekers and migrants from U.S. custody to Mexican territory, compelling them to face months of risk and uncertainty as they wait to complete their asylum processes. The asylum process itself is challenging and unclear, liable to change without warning, and largely opaque to affected populations. The asylum seekers and migrants waiting in Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez city, along the Mexico–U.S. border, face ever-present threats of extortion, gender-based violence (GBV), and kidnappings, which compound their trauma and restrict their freedom of movement and access to critical resources and services. Trauma and fear were the norm of the population that CARE surveyed, not the exception.
Lack of access to complete and reliable information made it difficult for asylum seekers and migrants— including pregnant women and GBV survivors—to make knowledgeable decisions about navigating the asylum process or finding basic services, including health care. Moreover, CARE did not find any mechanisms that allowed asylum seekers and migrants to report concerns or complaints of exploitation and abuse operating at the time of research.
At no point has there been a deliberate effort—by government authorities, policy makers, or those providing the scant services that exist—to systematically assess vulnerabilities and mitigate the risk of harm to at-risk groups. On the contrary, the lack of risk mitigation efforts has allowed several actors to emplace policies that put migrants and asylum seekers at increased risk of harm. For example, asylum seekers and migrants returned from U.S. detention to Mexico are often easily identified by visible markers of their detention, including a lack of shoelaces and the bags that they are issued to carry personal items. This visibility renders asylum seekers and migrants more vulnerable to detention or forced recruitment by armed groups, as well as kidnappings, which at times have taken place on the street directly outside the release area in plain sight of authorities.