As people in need of international protection continue to arrive at the Mexican side of the border with the United States, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) conducted an assessment to identify the main needs and risks they encounter in Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, and Ciudad Juárez. 

The IRC interviewed heads of families representing almost 900 people. Of the surveyed people, 68% were trying to seek asylum in the United States, 11% were internally displaced Mexicans and 16% had been expelled from the U.S. due to inhumane border policies such as Title 42 and the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program. Based on the interviews, the IRC identified that people on the move at the U.S.-Mexico border require humanitarian assistance in five critical aspects: 

  1. Resources to cover basic needs. Almost all surveyed people (96%) reported lacking means of subsistence, with 17% depending completely on humanitarian assistance. This represented an obstacle for them to satisfy needs like safe housing (55%), dignified clothing (52%), hygiene products (38%) and baby products (23%).
  2. Medical attention and treatment. Almost 90% of people reported needs related to access to health care, with 4 in 10 people experiencing serious medical conditions.
  3. Food. At least 83% of surveyed people could not cover their food and nutrition needs, with 34% resorting to coping mechanisms like begging on the streets.
  4. Safety and protection measures. At least half of people surveyed by IRC had directly experienced a safety issue or crime in Mexico. Overall, the three main risks identified were: sexual violence (23%), kidnapping (19%) and threats (16%). Women and children are among the groups in most danger, with sexual violence being the main risk for both—60% and 35%, respectively. Sexual exploitation, trafficking and recruitment by organized crime groups, as well as economic violence, also ranked high in the list. 
  5. Access to information and orientation. Approximately 7 in 10 people expressed requiring legal orientation to access international protection. 

Rafael Velásquez, Director for Mexico at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:

“Mixed migration through Mexico—usually onwards to the United States—has been a longstanding mechanism for people fleeing violence and conflict from the Caribbean and Central and South America. However, although not a new phenomenon, during the last year we have seen a particular increase in the number of asylum seekers from all over the world transiting through the country, including from places as distant as Asia, Africa and Europe.

“The implementation of harmful border policies during the previous U.S. Administration–which are still in place as of today–have resulted in Mexico being forced to fulfill growing humanitarian needs. More than 75,000 people have been impacted by the Migrant Protection Protocols, having no option but to wait in Mexican border towns for years while their U.S. cases are processed. At the same time, the continuation of Title 42 has resulted in more than 2 million expulsions, violating people’s right to seek asylum. 

“Although Mexico can be a safe destination for some people under specific circumstances, it’s not the case for most of the asylum seekers stuck at the northern border. When being expelled or returned, people can encounter dangers similar or worse than those they tried to flee from in the first place. In a context of a crisis like this, it is essential to ensure that asylum seekers meet their immediate needs, but also to provide them with alternatives to build a brighter future. 

“The International Rescue Committee has identified Mexico as a strategic location to respond to the displacement crises in Latin America: it is a country of origin and transit, but can also be a safe destination for some people. International cooperation and funding are critical to support and strengthen existing protection and asylum systems and policies in Mexico to guarantee people’s integrity, regardless of their nationality or status.”

The IRC’s response in Mexico

Since 2019, the IRC is supporting people on the move in Mexico. Currently, the IRC is responding along the main migration corridors: from the southern to the northern borders and along the routes through the country. The IRC’s programs offer a response to urgent needs of displaced people and asylum seekers, including: economic recovery and development; mental health and psychosocial support; prevention and response to gender-based violence; access to critical information through InfoDigna, a multi-channel information platform; prevention and mitigation of COVID-19; child protection services; as well as identifying needs and referring cases to local service providers. Additionally, the IRC is supporting local integration efforts by providing cultural orientation to individuals who have chosen to stay in Mexico.