Asylum seekers in Mexico must face assault, rape, murder … and coronavirus

The Guardian (March 23, 2020).- Stuart isn’t leaving his house in Tijuana right now unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Like countless others across the world, the Guatemalan asylum seeker is wary of contracting the coronavirus. But he’s also worried about going outside after Mexican municipal police detained him illegally, then tortured and robbed him earlier this month, according to him and his attorney.

“I don’t want to be here, and I’m afraid to be here,” said Stuart, who asked to protect his identity by using a nickname.

Migrants in Mexico are staring down yet another existential threat to their health and safety in the shape of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, they’re stuck in cities where they can’t trust the authorities, and where their attorneys say they have, at best, limited access to healthcare.

Stuart is among the migrants who have been forced to wait in Mexico for months or even a year because of the Trump administration’s crackdown at the border. One policy, called “metering”, makes migrants join a line in Mexico for their chance to access the asylum process in the United States.

Another, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), strands people at the southern border before and between their US immigration court hearings.

Through these changes to immigration norms, the Trump administration is sending migrants to a place that ranks first on “most dangerous cities in the world” lists, or a state under a “do not travel” advisory, instead of allowing them to at least temporarily come into the US.

In late-February, Human Rights First compiled more than a thousand publicly reported rapes, murders, kidnappings and other violent crimes against migrants returned to Mexico to await their court dates.