Doctors Without Borders: Fewer migrants heading north seeking asylum

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — With COVID-19 spreading throughout Latin America, the group Doctors Without Borders issued a warning about how the virus is affecting migrants now living and traveling through Mexico.

The asylum seekers are “trapped in precarious living conditions” along routes many take from Central America north to the U.S.-Mexico border, DWB said during a teleconference on Friday morning.

Central American migrants -mostly from Honduras- cross the shallow concrete waterway of the bordering Tijuana River as they try to reach the El Chaparral border crossing point in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on November 25, 2018. – US officials closed the San Ysidro crossing point in southern California on Sunday after hundreds of migrants, part of the “caravan” condemned by President Donald Trump, tried to breach a fence from Tijuana, authorities announced. (GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

The group says it’s also worried about migrants who live in camps and shelters in many border cities including Tijuana, Baja California just south of San Diego.

The fear is that people living in close proximity are being exposed to the virus.

“We treat them following protocols but when it’s a big issue we take them to the hospital,” said Doctors Without Borders coordinator Antonio Caradonna, who was in Tijuana for the teleconference.

Caradonna said in the current COVID-19 era, hospitals in cities like Tijuana are often full and migrants are turned away, which can have serious implications. He did not provide statistics or information about whether migrants have died due to the virus.

Central American migrants moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life are seen at a temporary shelter near the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, on November 17, 2018. The Central American migrant caravan faced a desperate situation Friday as its numbers swelled at the US-Mexican border, where it got a cold welcome and a warning that its chances of entering the United States were “almost nil.” (GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

He did say the number of migrants heading north through Mexico has dropped significantly.

“At the moment, the number of migrants is much less than last year,” he said, adding that fewer migrants are making the trek due to the difficulty in entering the asylum process in the United States.

The White House is forcing asylum-seekers to first pursue “safe haven” in a third country they had traveled through on their way to the United States. A U.S. District in California issued a preliminary injunction against the policy last year. The White House vowed to fight the ruling.

“We intend to pursue all available options to address this meritless ruling and to defend this Nation’s borders,” the White House said in a statement.

Since then, the Trump administration has said asylum seekers can’t enter the country due to COVID-19 concerns.

Year-old U.S-Mexico migration pact is humanitarian disaster, groups allege

Mexico has also pledged to stop caravans once they reach Mexican soil by providing people with shelter and jobs in the southern part of the country in states such as Chiapas and Quintana Roo.

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