New York, NY, July 16, 2020 --- Mexico has reached grim Coronavirus milestones this week: cases and deaths yesterday reached a near-record high, with a 100% increase in cases and deaths in the last month alone, and the country surpassed 300,000 cases overall. The IRC urges stronger funding and support to those most vulnerable in Mexico, including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on the border where we work in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
As Mexico faces skyrocketing cases, vulnerable populations have been left in limbo, without adequate shelter or services. Along the Mexico side of the US-Mexico border, over 20,000 asylum seekers are stuck waiting for their hearings in US immigration courts, which have been repeatedly postponed due to court closures. This number is distinct from the nearly 70,000 asylum-seekers who have been "expelled" without due process at the US-Mexico border due to a policy change implemented in mid-March. Many of these "expulsions" send asylum seekers directly back to northern Mexico where they continue in limbo in increasingly unsafe conditions.
Meghan Lopez, the International Rescue Committee's Regional Director of Latin America, said, "This week's high figures point to an upward trend of cases, with the backdrop of the world's most vulnerable along the US-Mexico border left with too few resources and nowhere to turn. The International Rescue Committee is responding in 17 shelters along the border, providing hygiene kits and psychosocial support, as well as a specific shelter for refugees that facilitates a 14-day quarantine before being moved to larger government shelters. The IRC is doing everything we can to limit the spread of the virus between these interventions and risk communication and community engagement -- all of which we learned was key from our Ebola response. Even so, today's figures should raise alarm bells to the entire international community to step up further. All actors should include vulnerable populations like refugees and migrants in their plans to prevent and respond to COVID-19, including access to health services. While in Europe and elsewhere we see re-openings and the sense that COVID-19 is passing, we are still very much in the eye of the storm in Latin America. Additional funding is critical as COVID-19 spreads, particularly to frontline responders like the IRC who are racing to meet these growing needs and reach the most vulnerable.This virus is not over until it's gone from every vulnerable community."