As thousands of Central Americans make their way to Tijuana, Mexico at the US southern border, Oxfam is increasingly concerned about the lack of durable solutions for those fleeing violence and in search of a better life on both sides of the border. Oxfam welcomes the recent court ruling that overrides the Presidential Proclamation barring the ability to seek asylum between ports of entry in the US, and upholds that all people should be able to exercise their right to seek asylum without being criminalized and deported.
“Every effort should be made by US and Mexican authorities to guarantee the safety of migrants and asylum-seekers, including ensuring security forces restrain from any act of violence. Women, children, and men who survived an arduous journey fleeing hardship from Central America should be met with compassion and civility, not weapons and hostility,” said Vicki Gass, Oxfam America Senior Policy Advisor for Central America.
In the US, the Trump Administration’s recent attempt to limit the ability of people to seek asylum anywhere but at ports of entry is both heartless and illegal. All people fleeing violence and persecution should be able to exercise their right to seek asylum anywhere along the border; to prevent them from doing so is a violation of international law. Rather than prioritizing a militarized response to women, children, and men simply seeking refuge, the US government should respond to their needs with medical staff, interpreters, lawyers, and social workers to ensure an orderly process and that their rights are upheld.
The possibility of thousands of people stranded in Tijuana also calls for speedy and responsive solutions from the Mexican government. The Mexican government should grant humanitarian visas with guarantees of non-refoulement to recognize the protection needs of forcibly displaced people from Central America.
In Mexico, the federal government has yet to make good on its obligations to provide humanitarian assistance to people from the Central American mass migration. It has also refused to take a clear and unambiguous position on whether it considers migrants in need of assistance subject to deportation. Additionally, state governments have made assistance commitments they have not kept and have begun to request personal information and registration as conditions for receiving support. This furthers the fear and distrust of migrants in the caravans, which, by rejecting state assistance out of fear, has also made confrontation with local communities more likely. Oxfam calls on local and federal authorities to state clearly and unambiguously that migrants in the caravan will not be forcefully deported, to clarify the uses it will give to personal information, and to guarantee the physical safety of caravan members.
At the Guatemala-Mexico border and several states in Mexican territory, including in Mexico City, Oxfam staff met people in the caravans fleeing targeted persecution from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Many will request asylum in the US. The US and Mexican governments should ensure all efforts should be made so anyone who desires to request asylum in either country is able to do so quickly and efficiently, in accordance with international law.
“Militarizing borders and preventing people from their legal right to asylum are temporary and counter-productive efforts that will not make migration from Central America go away. If governments are serious about addressing forced migration in the region, they should take a hard look at the real reasons why people are fleeing in the first place. Addressing the root causes of migration from Central America is the only answer,” said Ricardo Fuentes Nieva, Executive Director of Oxfam Mexico.