Yaneth, from Honduras, is 20 years old. in her country, the gangs threatened to kill her husband. They had them watched, they knew where they lived. They fled Honduras when she was pregnant. She entered the United States alone because they only had money to pay for one crossing. She was already five months pregnant. In the United States they arrested her. She never saw a doctor or received any information, just a bottle of water in almost 12 hours. But the worst was yet to come for her: when she was expelled to the Mexican border city of Reynosa, she was raped. “They didn’t care that she was pregnant, she affected me tremendously and affected my pregnancy,” she says.
Labor was early and her baby was born premature. Despite what happened, she has returned to Reynosa because some friends told her about the shelter where she now lives. “Sometimes I would like to sleep and not wake up, but my daughter, my mother who is still in Honduras, my brothers and my husband help me to continue,” she says.
They are being hectic weeks in Reynosa, in the Mexican northeast. While the expectation persists about the eventual lifting of Title 42 (the order that allows the immediate expulsion of migrants from the United States and still in force by a court order) thousands of people continue to arrive in this border city. There they face harsh weather conditions, insecurity and lack of access to basic services.
The eviction of the last remaining inhabitants in the Plaza de la República at the beginning of May and the arrival of hundreds of migrants every day have collapsed the already scarce capacity in the city to serve this population.
The dynamics of migration has visibly changed compared to the scenario of months ago. The number of migrants has increased and there is a great lack of accommodation, food and health services to attend to them. The entry permits to the United States, managed fundamentally by groups of private lawyers and which are given by drops, and the continuous expulsions from the United States to the northern borders of Mexico by virtue of Title 42, which is still in force, are acting as a factor of overcrowding. of asylum seekers.
Hundreds of people arrive trying to access legal support for their entry into the northern neighbor and decide to stay and wait in a city where there is no longer room in shelters. Many of them end up living on the street. In addition to the difficulties of access to health services and safe spaces, they face very high temperatures, without drinking water or toilets. They are also exposed to situations of violence in a city where clashes between armed groups, also in the neighborhoods near the shelters, have increased.
José’s family, from Honduras, has been in Reynosa for several months. “The other night we heard gunshots very close to the shelter, we felt desperate because we didn’t know what was happening, we hid in the bathroom for fear of a stray bullet. We came fleeing from the bullets in my country, we didn’t think that it was like that here too. There were a lot of chaos and fear,” says José, who is waiting, together with his wife, his daughter and his 74-year-old father, for an answer to his request for asylum.
At the moment, there are about 2,400 people in the two shelters where Doctors Without Borders (MSF) provide support, but we do not have an exact estimate of the number of migrants living in the surroundings and on the streets. Given this scenario, we have increased the capacity of the team, adding more medical and logistics personnel and medicines. We provide medical and mental health consultations, deliver hydration kits, drinking water, and carry out health promotion and social assistance activities.
On a physical level, we see respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal diseases, urinary, gynecological and skin infections and imbalances due to chronic or degenerative diseases. It is especially worrying that, in recent weeks, our consultations for pregnant women and children under five have tripled.
Regarding mental health, symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, grief or loss, and depression prevail. Despite our efforts, we are overwhelmed by the number of people who require services and the difficulties in providing them, especially for people living on the streets.
The case of Reynosa is a clear example of the impact of conditions of insecurity, poverty, and inequality in the countries of origin, forcing thousands of people to flee in search of protection and well-being. Added to these are the immigration policies of countries like the United States and Mexico that criminalize migrants and generate humanitarian crises in places like this city.
A greater response from official and international entities is essential to improve access to habitat, health services, food, health, education and protection. But a discourse that sees in migrants and refugees an opportunity for national growth and not a threat is also essential, because migrating is not a crime and seeking protection and security is not a crime.
* Anayeli Flores is responsible for Humanitarian Affairs for MSF in Mexico.