Violence from south to north: the transit of migrant women


By Ciela Ávila

Rocío left El Salvador and is on the border of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, which borders El Paso, Texas. She is 25 years old and wants to come to the United States with her 8-year-old son.

“I would not want to return because the boy’s father … being there, wherever he is, he is going to look for me, he threatened to kill me,” he mentioned in an interview.

She dreams of her son studying in the United States and, from there, she can financially help her father, who supported her to leave El Salvador. “The idea is to cross to the other side, but if you can’t, I’ll have to ask for asylum here. I have no other”He says from a Chihuahuan shelter.

On her first attempt she was expelled under the immigration policy Title 42. “I stayed on the bridge, sitting … crying,” she says. This policy was activated because of the emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and prevents individuals and families from accessing asylum procedures and identification of your protection needs in the United States.

Rocío left El Salvador and seeks to reach the United States. SPECIAL / C. Avila

In this regard, in August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern about the new practice of the United States of airlift asylum seekers to southern Mexico under that American public health order.

“Individuals or families on board these flights who may have urgent protection needs run the risk of be returned to the same dangers from which they have fled in their countries of origin in Central America, without any opportunity for those needs to be assessed and addressed, ”said Matthew Reynolds, UNHCR representative for the United States and the Caribbean.

“These flights, through which non-Mexican citizens are transferred to the interior of Mexico, constitute a new and worrying dimension in the application of the public health order related to COVID known as Title 42,” adds UNHCR in its statement.

“The expulsion from the United States to southern Mexico, regardless of any official transfer agreement with due legal guarantees, increases the risk of chain returns – successive returns by different countries – of vulnerable people in danger, which contravenes international law and humanitarian principles of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees”, Continues said UN agency.

In an interview Sofía Cardona, Senior Protection Associate at UNHCR Mexico, states that, indeed, “access to a procedure must be guaranteed and it must not be returned neither to its own country, nor to a country from which it is potentially returned in turn ”.

Cardona explains that the rejection of migrants at the border is a way in which the principle of non-refoulement is violated, which is “the cornerstone of international protection (…) If someone expresses a fear of returning to their country, they are must admit to a procedure for determine if he is indeed a person who requires international protection. Access to a procedure must be guaranteed ”, adds Cardona.

Violence was also the reason why 20-year-old María left her native Guatemala accompanied by her 16-year-old cousin.

“Whenever I went out to the street and met him, he threatened me. Lived close to the house […] he wanted me to marry him, he said not to tell the police anything because otherwise he was going to kill my mother… ”, he recalls in an interview about a member of a Guatemalan gang.

The young it took a month to reach the northern border of Mexico. She tried to cross to the United States but they returned her to Ciudad Juárez because she did not have her papers.

Currently Maria is in a shelter without her cousin; they separated them. Wait for the border to be opened. “There are days when I feel desperate, I start crying at night. I don’t know what will happen to me, ”he laments.

She wants to work to pay for the medicines for her mother, who has diabetes, and to help her five siblings. “Maybe he still recovers […] I want to raise my familyWe are poor, we do not have a house, I have the goal of making a house for it, even if it is not so big, ”he says.

Precisely the economic difficulties forced Carolina to leave Guatemala. He is 22 years old and traveled to pay for a hernia operation for his mother and his deceased father’s debt, which adds up to more than 200 thousand quetzals that exceed half a million Mexican pesos.

Carolina, from Guatemala, managed to reach the border with the United States; however, she was deported. SPECIAL / C. Avila

“The intention of getting out of there is to fight for my mother and then buy her a place to build a little house for her, at least, and now complying with that I return to her”, He assures in an interview.

Carolina walked five hours to reach the border wall between Mexico and the United States and another five hours to get to a place where they would pick up migrants who wanted to cross it but was deported.

“We were already there…. and migration appears and deported us. I could not continue because I fell off the wall, I could not continue traveling […] I didn’t feel well because I had a broken leg, I got away from the boys, ”he says.

A man who saw her injured offered to take her to the shelter where she is recovering. She has been in Juárez for three months but is worried because as time progresses the debt increases. “I feel sad, with a lot of depression, how to get out of here and how to pay the debt?”

Being a woman, a reason to leave Central America

The stories of Rocío, María and Carolina * in recent years are proof that there are now more migrant women. “He has risen the woman decides to migrate alone and brings her children with her. The most common profiles that we have identified are single caregivers […] young adult women ”, says in an interview Adriana Torres, assistant for Monitoring and Evaluation of the CBI and Housing Program of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Their cases coincide with the health contingency and, according to the Gender and COVID-19 Observatory microsite in Mexico, until 2018, women represented between 20 and 25% of migratory flows in irregular transit. However, as of October 2018 a change in migration was observed, and in 2019 women and girls accounted for 40% of people detained in immigration stations across the country.

For more than five decades, adds the Observatory, women are half of the people who migrate in the world. But they have times and ways of migrating different from those of men, because they are traversed by gender violence.

Blanca Navarrete, director of Integral Human Rights in Action (DHIA), a civil association that works with people in mobility and LGBTTTIQ in Ciudad Juárez, explains that from January to September they have attended 133 cases of female survivors of gender violence.

“A significant number of these events have occurred in their place of origin, mainly in the northern triangle of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador). This shows us that Gender-based violence is also a reason why women choose to move from their countries of origin”, Maintains Navarrete.

Adriana Torres and Blanca Navarrete agree that the violence from which women flee in their countries of origin is also perpetuated during their transit through Mexico, and they do not access medical service, psychological care and they do not report these situations because they are discriminated against for being migrant people.

“Many of the women we serve (from Honduras and El Salvador) have been victims of violence, and specifically, sexual violence on the road […] They are victims of crime, but they do not go to the prosecution out of fear. Many arrive at the northern border with a fractured emotional state, ”Torres specifies.

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