PBI-Canada migrant rights tour postponed, coronavirus impact on migrants remain a key concern

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Given necessary public health precautions, Peace Brigades International-Canada has postponed its advocacy tour to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal with Javier Martinez of the Casa del Migrante Saltillo and Lena Weber from PBI-Mexico.

The tour was set to focus on the human rights situation of migrants transiting through Mexico and the impact on their lives of policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols/Remain in Mexico and the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement.

The Saltillo Migrant Shelter, situated near the Coahuila/Texas border, provides a range of services to more than 12,000 migrants a year.

Related to this, CNN reported this week, “The Supreme Court said on Wednesday [March 11] that the controversial Trump administration ‘Remain in Mexico’ asylum policy can stay in effect while legal challenges play out.”

That article adds, “The policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols, mandates that non-Mexican asylum return to Mexico as they await hearings in the United States. It has resulted in the creation of makeshift camps where hundreds of migrants have waited for weeks, if not months, in squalid and unsafe conditions. In some cases, migrant families have opted to send children across the US-Mexico border alone.”

Now Al Jazeera reports, “Doctors working at a makeshift migrant and refugee encampment along the US-Mexico border are treating the potential arrival of the novel coronavirus, now declared a worldwide pandemic, as a certainty, not a possibility.”

“A doctor at the camp in Matamoros, Mexico, said when COVID-19 arrives here, it will be ‘catastrophic’, and people will die. About 2,500 migrants and asylum seekers live in the encampment, which consists of thousands of tents.”

Matamoros is located about 400 kilometres east of Saltillo.

That article adds, “For serious medical emergencies, the [encampment] clinic [a cluster of temporary buildings and a trailer arranged around a carpeted open-air waiting area] refers patients to local hospitals. But Sam Bishop [the project coordinator for the group that runs the camp clinic] said many fear to Matamoros hospitals because there is a lot of discrimination against asylum seekers.”

Given the significant and ongoing concerns about migrant rights and the need for PBI-Mexico to accompany the Saltillo Migrant Shelter, the advocacy tour in Canada will be rescheduled as soon as possible (hopefully in the fall).

The Canadian government is looking to “modernize” the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, which currently prevents many migrants from applying for asylum after being in the US, so that it would also bar those who enter by land between official crossing points. That could have the impact of further swelling the camps on the US/Mexico border and worsening the living conditions for migrants.

Photo by Acacia Coronado/Texas Observer.

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